Paul Nehlen is using Donald Trump's refusal to endorse Paul D. Ryan as a springboard in his primary battle against the House speaker.
Gov. Mike Pence on Wednesday came out and endorsed Ryan in his primary election.
Ryan's Aug. 9 primary contest against the Wisconsin businessman has been one of the most overlooked races of this election cycle, but it is receiving more attention ever since Trump gave a shout-out to Nehlen on Twitter.
Thanks to @pnehlen for your kind words, very much appreciated.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2016
The next day, the Republican presidential nominee said he was "not quite there yet" on endorsing Ryan, echoing the speaker's own words about Trump in May. Ryan has since endorsed the real estate mogul but has criticized some of his more inflammatory remarks.
Ryan's behavior amounts to sabotage, Nehlen said at a news conference .
"Speaker Ryan’s repeated betrayal of Donald Trump is an act of sabotage against our party and an act of sabotage against our Republican electorate who selected Mr. Trump as our nominee," Nehlen said. "Speaker Ryan’s actions once again indicate that has never cared about his constituents that he’s been elected to represent."
At the end of his remarks, challenger called on all voters, not just Republicans, to support him.
"I am asking every last voting person in the state — be they Democrat, Republican, or Independent — who wants only for their children to grow up in peace, and who wants their husbands, sisters, brothers, wives and children to be able to dream of a better future — I am asking that you vote in the open primary on August 9," Nehlen said.
A Ryan primary loss would not be unprecedented for a top House leader. In 2014, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary to little known Dave Brat, who still represents Virginia's 7th congressional district.
That said, a May poll showed Ryan leading Nehlen by 73 points; and second quarter fundraising totals showed the speaker raised more than nine times his challenger's total. Ryan brought in about $5.5 million, compared to Nehlen's $589,000.