You know all about the “Never Trumpers” – that rump group of Republicans who have loudly spoken out against former President Donald Trump and what he has done to the GOP.
Now meet the “Never-Again Trumpers.”
That’s how former House Speaker Paul Ryan described himself in an interview with ABC News that aired over the weekend. Here’s what he said:
“I’m proud of the accomplishments [during the Trump administration] – of the tax reform, the deregulation and criminal justice reform – I’m really excited about the judges we got on the bench, not just the Supreme Court, but throughout the judiciary. But I am a Never-Again Trumper. Why? Because I want to win, and we lose with Trump. It was really clear to us in ’18, in ‘20 and now in 2022.”
Ryan, who left Congress in 2019, has grown increasingly outspoken about his feelings about Trump and the future of the Republican Party.
Paul Ryan slams ‘horrifying’ end of Trump’s presidency (May, 2021)
In late October, he told Fox Business Network that the “new swing voter in American politics is the suburban voter, and it’s really clear the suburban voter doesn’t like Trump, but they like Republicans.” And he added: “So I think anybody not named Trump, I think is so much more likely to win the White House for us.”
(Worth noting: Trump won suburban voters over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and lost them narrowly to Joe Biden in 2020, according to the national exit polls. In the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans won suburban voters 52%-46%.)
And back in June at an event for South Carolina GOP Rep. Tom Rice, who voted to impeach Trump in 2021, Ryan was deeply critical of those within the GOP who didn’t vote that way. “There are a lot of people who say they’re going to vote their conscience, they’re going to vote for the Constitution, they’re going to vote for their convictions but when it gets hard to do that they don’t do it,” he said at the time. (Rice went on to lose the Republican primary in his district to a Trump-backed challenger.)
Trump, as he does, has attacked Ryan in the past too. “As a Republican, having Paul Ryan on your side almost guarantees a loss, for both you, the Party, and America itself,” Trump wrote in a statement last year after Ryan gave a speech suggesting the party needed to move on from the former president.
Attacks aside, Ryan’s position on Trump is an interesting one. It gives the former president credit for what he accomplished in office while suggesting he is neither the present nor the future of the GOP.
Which is where, I think, some of the more serious challengers to Trump in 2024 will land. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, would do well to echo Ryan’s viewpoint – give Trump credit for what he did as president while making clear that his political appeal has shrunk to the point where it would be a mistake for Republicans to nominate him again.
At the core of Ryan’s position as a “Never-Again Trumper” is something that I have often wondered doesn’t get more attention: Trump’s win-loss record.
Trump famously bragged that “we are going to start winning again and we are going to win so much,” but the truth is that since the 2016 election, he has been much more closely identified with losing. In Trump’s time in office, Republicans lost control of the House and Senate. Republicans did retake the House majority in 2022, but their victory was far narrower than expected. And Democrats managed to hang on to their narrow Senate majority, with several Trump-backed candidates falling short in key races.
That decided lack of winning seems to be a clear weak spot for Trump as he looks to rally support for his third presidential bid. And DeSantis already appears to be moving to exploit it. Following a crushing reelection victory this month, DeSantis said of his critics: “I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night.”
Maybe DeSantis is part of the “Never Again Trump” movement too?