- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2016

The insurgent forces that helped end House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s seven-term stint in Congress two years ago are now gunning for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary — though political analysts said they are likely to come up empty.

Challenger Paul Nehlen is trying to ride the same wave of dissatisfaction that Donald Trump harnessed in the Republican presidential primary race, but Mr. Ryan won’t be caught by surprise, as Mr. Cantor was in 2014, by anger at illegal immigration, rising spending and the push for more free trade deals.

“If you are looking for your next big win, going after Paul Ryan is probably not a wise strategy,” said David Canon, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin. “Paul Ryan is someone who has a strong reservoir of support, so it is going to take more than Ann Coulter to turn his constituents against him.”

The Ryan race played out mostly in the background until last week, when Mr. Trump praised Mr. Nehlen, a businessman, on his Twitter account, then pointedly refused to endorse the top Republican officeholder.

After a feverish outcry, Mr. Trump did embrace Mr. Ryan on Friday, heading off what had been shaping up as a proxy war between Mr. Trump’s forces and those of the Republican establishment, who are still smarting over seeing the billionaire businessman win their party’s presidential nod.

Mr. Nehlen downplayed the endorsement, saying Mr. Ryan is clearly not Mr. Trump’s first pick in the race and closed out his insurgent bid Monday by delivering a message similar to the one the New York billionaire has relied on in the presidential race.

“Rarely before in history have a people been given such an opportunity to effect profound change as Wisconsin voters have in this open primary,” Mr. Nehlen said. “All we have to do is cast one ballot on Aug. 9. With your one vote, you can stop amnesty for good. With your one vote, you can stop TPP. With your one vote, you can end rule by corporations. You can end the serfdom to special interests and become free, safe and secure.”

Brian Fraley, a Wisconsin-based Republican Party strategist, said Mr. Ryan, unlike Mr. Cantor, continues to have a strong presence in his home district and has not become lost in the Washington culture.

Paul Ryan is the intellectual leader of the Republicans, and he’s a part of the conservative movement here in Wisconsin,” Mr. Fraley said. “Outsiders’ attempt to create him into some sort of Washington, D.C., evildoer fall flat. Nehlen will get embarrassed. The scammers who parachuted into Wisconsin to help Nehlen will then merely just cash their checks and move on to the next scheme.”

In the closing days of the race, Mr. Nehlen campaigned with former Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and conservative commentator Ann Coulter, demanded a debate showdown with Mr. Ryan and even challenged him to an arm-wrestling match.

Outside groups, meanwhile, attacked Mr. Ryan. The Americans for Legal Immigration PAC released radio ads and funded robocalls that said, “Lyin’ Paul Ryan has been backing Obama’s dangerous illegal alien and Muslim refugee resettlement plans.”

Mr. Ryan has weathered the attacks, according to a Remington Research Group survey of likely Republican voters released last week that showed him leading Mr. Nehlen by a massive 80 percent to 14 percent margin.

Eighty percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Mr. Ryan compared with 16 percent for Mr. Nehlen.

Paul Nehlen is not Dave Brat,” Mr. Fraley said. “He’s a carpetbagging bigot who is raising more than $1 million from national alt-right agitators who think this race is some sort of establishment versus Trump proxy war.”

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