Declaring that Republicans who express concern over Donald Trump’s offensive remarks about grabbing women without their consent “are helping Hillary Clinton,” conservative radio talkshow host Laura Ingraham suggested Tuesday that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan might lose his re-election race this fall if he doesn’t stand should-to-shoulder with the embattled GOP nominee.
“There could be a backlash here against Paul Ryan. What’s stopping the Republican voters from just voting for Trump and not voting down ballot? What’s stopping them?” Ingraham asked during a series of segments on her Tuesday morning show.
Ingraham’s show does not air on Wisconsin radio stations in or around Ryan’s district, and the affable policy wonk and bowhunter who served as Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 easily beat back a primary challenge from a decidedly un-conservative Trump-backing populist who ran against him in Wisconsin’s August primary.
After a video surfaced last week of Trump talking into a hot mic about how he inappropriately grabbed women without their consent and attempted to lure a high profile married woman to sleep with him, Ryan and other conservatives who had previously backed Trump began to step away from the real estate mogul. Ryan’s relationship with Trump has always been cautious, but with a series of self-inflicted wounds threatening the New York playboy’s political viability, not to mention further revealing his crass attitudes about women, Ryan first cancelled a joint appearance with Trump, then announced he wasn’t going to appear with the GOP nominee at all between now and election day.
The final straw for Ingraham and others who are tearing into Ryan was the speaker’s announcement to GOP members of Congress on Monday that they should focus on their own races and work to get re-elected in an increasingly difficult climate for Republicans.
“And meanwhile Paul Ryan thinks that he’s gonna be able to keep his majority in the House and Senate by saying ‘go your own way, vote your conscience.’ I think that the voters have had just about enough,” Ingraham complained on Tuesday. “Every time a Republican comes out and trashes Trump, three and a half weeks before the election, they are helping Hillary Clinton. They are doing the Clinton’s work for them right now.”
Ingraham went on to complain that Republicans should act more like Democrats when it comes to loyalty, and she cited the Democratic Party’s ongoing embrace of former President Bill Clinton who was impeached by the U.S. House and left office under a cloud of controversy. “[Democrats] stuck with Hillary through the private server, and through all of the other disasters, Benghazi…. never breaking ranks,” she praised.
But Ryan is part of “the Republican establishment who agree more with Hillary than they agree with you,” she told her audience.
Ingraham’s tone mirrored that of Trump, who on Monday and Tuesday blasted Ryan on Twitter like a jilted lover, calling him “Our very weak and ineffective leader” and claiming that “Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win – I will teach them!”
Trump tried to then downplay the importance of Ryan’s skepticism by saying that the “shackles have been taken off me.”
But why Trump feels he is justified in demanding unquestioningly and unlimited loyalty from Ryan is not clear. During Ryan’s primary race earlier this year, Trump praised Ryan’s opponent for running “a very good campaign” and later said:
“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”
Ryan never asked Trump for his endorsement, although Trump ended up endorsing Ryan just days ahead of the primary. Trump’s refusal to endorse Ryan nearly cost him the RNC’s support according to some sources.
What Trump and his supporters, like Ingraham, have not apparently learned is that if a candidate is going to demand unflinching loyalty, he or she needs to demonstrate unflinching loyalty, and throughout this election cycle Trump’s only political loyalty has been to himself. That makes for a very short list of people to call when it comes time to get some help.