House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s primary challenger saw his profile boosted over the weekend thanks to an endorsement from Sarah Palin, but does he have a chance to “Cantor” Ryan as Dave Brat did to the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014?
Paul Nehlen entered the race against the speaker in Wisconsin’s 1st District with some backing from the tea party. Ryan had more than $7.6 million in cash on hand at the end of March according to Federal Election Commission filings.
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Nehlen, at 47 a year older than Ryan, is a Delavan, Wisconsin, entrepreneur, and a senior vice president at a water filtration and disinfection company, according to his campaign website .
On his website, he says used to be a Ryan supporter but the speaker’s support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal “was the final straw for me.”
In his first campaign ad, titled “Truth Resurrection,” a motorcycle-riding Nehlen rides into the scene, sleeves torn off a denim jacket showing tattooed biceps. He challenges Ryan to come back to Wisconsin to debate the trade deal “man-to-man, face-to-face.”
“And if you don’t want to debate me, maybe we can arm wrestle,” he continues.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that Ryan is “soon to be ‘Cantored,’ as in Eric Cantor,” referring to the former Republican House majority leader who shockingly lost his Virginia congressional primary race in 2014 to a then-unknown college professor, Dave Brat.
Palin endorsed Nehlen after Ryan told CNN on Thursday that he was “not ready” to support Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.
“His political career is over but for a miracle because he has so disrespected the will of the people,” Palin said of Ryan. “As the leader of the GOP, the convention, certainly he is to remain neutral and for him to already come out and say who he will not support is not a wise decision of his.”
Palin also wrote on Facebook Sunday:
Ryan was first elected to Congress in 1998 and became speaker following John A. Boehner’s resignation in September.
In addition to his campaign war chest, Ryan has a 76 percent approval rating among Republicans in Wisconsin, according to a recent Marquette Law School poll , although that was conducted before Ryan announced that he was withholding support for Trump.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz carried the 1st District over Trump in Wisconsin’s presidential primary, 51-32 percent, on April 7. Nehlen entered the race the next day, which was after the first quarter deadline for filing fundraising reports with the FEC. Wisconsin’s primary is on August 9.
Along with Palin, Nehlen was also endorsed by the Tea Party Patriots. On Friday, he pledged his support for Trump.
Correction 5:25 p.m. | An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Nehlen had been endorsed by Right Wisconsin.