Wisconsin

Paul Nehlen Returns for Second Challenge to Paul Ryan

Campaigns

Apparently losing by nearly 70 percent isn’t enough for some people.

In an announcement on Friday; which doubled as a fund raising email, small business owner Paul Nehlen made clear his intention to primary Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) for a second time in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. Ryan defeated Nehlen in August 2016 by an 84 percent to 16 percent margin.

Businessman Paul Nehlen announced Friday that he is launching another primary challenge against Speaker Paul D. Ryan, despite losing to Ryan by 68 points in the 2016 primary.

The Wisconsin Republican’s primary bid last year garnered media attention due in part to then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who initially stopped short of endorsing Ryan while praising Nehlen for running a good campaign. Ryan also delayed endorsing Trump even after Trump had locked up the nomination, saying Trump had to do more to unify the party.

Nehlen invoked Trump in his campaign announcement, referencing reports that Ryan told his GOP colleagues that he was done defending Trump after an Access Hollywood tape showed Trump bragging about sexually aggressive behavior.

“Speaker Ryan didn’t help Mr. Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, and even pledged not to defend the president,” Nehlen said in a statement. “But I have a message for Speaker Ryan: The American people are not done fighting for President Trump’s good agenda.”

To the surprise of no one, Nehlen offered his first post-announcement interview to Breitbart.com’s Matthew Boyle. Breitbart spent much of the 2016 primary acting as an alternate reality to Nehlen’s campaign and its national supporters, leading many to think he actually stood a chance at defeating Ryan.

It was well-documented how former Breitbart CEO; and current Trump White House Senior Adviser, Steve Bannon, had declared political war on Speaker Ryan. Despite Bannon no longer being at the website, that war appears to have never ended for Breitbart staffers.

Nehlen, the ultimate Trump-like candidate, essentially ran his campaign as a “scam PAC” really on donations from national email lists, spending lavishly on “consultants” and expenses such as travel, and even had scam PACer-in-Chief Dan Backer listed as his campaign treasurer.

Nehlen’s first run for Congress was a textbook example of what not to do. Not only did he fail to court many key Republican voting blocs, he seemed to find new and exciting ways to alienate them with every step along his journey.

In April 2016, Nehlen went on liberal talk radio host John “Sly” Sylvester’s show and openly begged for Democrats to vote for him.

During the interview, Sly said he normally only gives people a half hour interview, but that “he was enjoying his conversation” with Nehlen “so much” that he asked him to stay over the commercial break for an additional segment.

Nehlen called for a coalition of people to come together in order to defeat Paul Ryan reminding people that Wisconsin has an open primary and specifically encouraging Democrats to “have a look” at his website.

In late May 2016, Nehlen continued his appearance on Madison-area progressive talk radio and welcomed the support he got form far left-wing blogs; quickly becoming many Democrats’ favorite Republican, many only supporting him because they saw him as a way to rid themselves of Ryan.

Although two Democrats are running against Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, it is the supposedly conservative Republican challenging Ryan that is drawing the most positive buzz from leading Democrats.

The liberal blog Cognitive Dissidence has picked up on the call to unite behind Paul Nehlen. In consecutive posts on May 11th and 12th, Jeff Simpson, formerly of Blogging Blue, pleaded for Democrats to unite behind supposed conservative Paul Nehlen.

In a post titled “Democrats for Nehlen” Simpson opined, “However there is one more thing that could be the most important thing you do all summer. In the August 9 Statewide Primary, Vote for Paul Nehlen. Seriously, in a low turnout election anyway, show up to end Paul Ryan’s career.” He further advocated that, “You can go back to party purity in the November elections.”

In his follow up post on May 12th Simpson clenched his argument with this call to action, “Let us take advantage of the opportunity that is presented to us. We must keep the pressure up on Paul Ryan from the left, right and center and then on August 9th vote for Paul Nehlen!”

Nehlen also jumped head first into a short-sighted Breitbart hit piece attacking Speaker Ryan – a devout Roman Catholic – for sending his kids to a local Catholic School connected to his parish.

The story, written by former Breitbart reporter Julia Hahn (who now works inside the Trump White House), was quickly mocked by media across the political spectrum. Here’s how Mediaite commented on Breitbart’s “Exclusive”

Oh god, that first paragraph. We’re now supposed to be outraged that non-Catholic children enrolled in a Catholic school might be forced to go to church? If only their parents had the option to, I don’t know, not enroll them in Catholic school.
I can’t believe I have to spell this out, but maybe Ryan believes that his kids’ CATHOLIC school should be allowed to use a religious test because it’s CATHOLIC. Maybe he thinks it would be wholly inappropriate for a U.S. government with no established religion to do so. Maybe he thinks there’s no comparing admissions for a small private school with plentiful public alternatives with denying people trying to flee a civil war-torn hellscape. Maybe he’s capable of independent thought.
 As August rolled around, Nehlen’s grip on the race and reality began to fall apart.
For starters, he and campaign – again at the urging of a Breitbart.com article – attacked the Koch Brothers advocacy network for its unwillingness to aid Donald Trump’s presidential campaign (the organization instead said it would use its resources for House and Senate races), along with prominent Wisconsin Republicans such as Senator Ron Johnson and Scott Walker for attending a Koch-sponsored forum in Colorado.
He followed that up with a disastrous interview on an Illinois radio station where he called for the outright deportation of all Muslims – including those who are American citizens – from the United States.
Paul Nehlen: “So if the breakpoint is Sharia, and Islam is the only major religion that encourages lying. The Taqiyya says lie to the infidel. You lie to them if you have to. So if you look at a Muslim and say hey, are you lying, they go, no. Okay, you’re in, absolutely. Okay, you’re out. If they lie, how do you, how do you vet something like that?”
Dan Croft: “Then how do you implement, how do you implement the test that you want to implement?”
Paul Nehlen: “Well, then, the question is, why do we have Muslims in the country? How can you possibly vet somebody who lies?
Dan Croft: “Well, that said, are you suggesting that we deport all of the Muslims in this country?”
Paul Nehlen: “I’m suggesting that we have a discussion about it. That’s for sure. I am absolutely suggesting we figure out how do we, we, here’s what we should be doing. We should be monitoring every mosque. We should be monitoring all social media.”
Since his defeat, Nehlen has continued down the path of self-parody by essentially becoming a political laughingstock. In the days following his defeat, Nehlen announced he would be the face of his own super PAC entitled “Citizen Revolt PAC” to “elect a Republican president and to hold accountable those who do not wholeheartedly endorse and support Donald Trump.”
According to the Federal Elections Commission paperwork filed for the super PAC; which was filed four days before his loss to Ryan, scamPAC artist Dan Backer would again be serving a treasurer of the organization. Since then, it has failed to file additional reports to the FEC, hasn’t updated its website since September 2016, and shows no donations to any candidate or candidate’s committee at OpenSecrets.org.
Nehlen further embarked on self-parody by announcing in late October 2016 that he would be challenging Ryan again — as Speaker of the House. House of Representatives rules do not require the Speaker to be a sitting member to serve as Speaker, only that his or her name be placed under nomination and that he or she receive a majority of votes from its members.
No member of the House GOP caucus placed Nehlen’s name under nomination and Ryan was re-elected Speaker of the House by his caucus by a near-unanimous vote.
In addition to Nehlen’s second challenge to Ryan, as many as three Democrats are challenging or considering challenging the House Speaker. The district is seen as “Solid Republican” by most political handicappers with most giving Nehlen little to no chance on besting Ryan in a rematch.

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