Paul Ryan said he plans to remain as speaker and not call an early leadership election, but well-wired Republicans tell Jonathan Swan and me that Ryan may be forced out sooner.
What we're hearing: One source close to leadership told us: "Scuttlebutt is that Paul will have to step down from speakership soon. Members won’t follow a lame duck, he’ll have no leverage to cut deals, and the last thing they need in this environment is 6 months of palace intrigue and everyone stabbing everyone else in the back."
A senior GOP House member predicted this about Ryan’s future: “He will be gone by the end of July.”
Some big donors, who have given millions to Ryan this cycle, may not want him to stay on as speaker if the entire party is taking on water.
This is not because he’ll struggle to raise money. Enough donors from the old Romney-Ryan world will write checks to Ryan to try to save the majority.
It’s more about certainty and stability. Members need certainty and they don’t want to operate until November in a climate where every move from every member of leadership is viewed through the prism of jostling for the speakership.
Our sources say that could pull an already divided conference even further apart.
So we wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan reverses himself before August, setting an early election for the next speaker...
Two observations here.
One, I think the real issue is what happens in the next month with Syria and Mueller. If Trump makes a major military push against Assad and/or fires Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, you'll see the House GOP fall in line very, very quickly and Ryan will remain as the lightning rod. Trump's capricious petty vengeance has the added effect of focusing the mind of the problem of self-preservation for everyone around him. As long as Ryan stays around, the rest of the House GOP is off the accountability hook, and this could very well be why Ryan made the announcement now and is falling on his sword to preserve the gains the GOP has made so far.
Two, this is all dependent on somebody actually wanting to replace Ryan before the November election. Does Steve Scalise or Kevin McCarthy want to be the new captain of the Titanic with the twin icebergs of Trump's unpopularity and the Democratic wave in sight, or do they wait until the House GOP self-destructs so they can blame Ryan and start fresh in 2019 as the minority party? Believe me, if Scalise or McCarthy take over the job now, they'll be the goat staked out for the T-Rex of Failure to come feast upon when the January election for leadership rolls around.
It's possible, but I'm betting the remaining players in House GOP leadership are going to suddenly discover that keeping Paul Ryan around as a human shield is much, much more preferable than drawing active fire from both the base and the Democrats, not to mention Trump spraying and praying.