Former Speaker Paul D. Ryan thinks there are some Democrats in the 2020 field who can defeat President Donald Trump in a general election.
At a Monday speech in Vero Beach, Florida, Ryan briefly outlined the playbook for Democrats to topple Trump and make him the first one-term president since the early 1990s — namely, make the race about Trump’s personality.
If Trump relies on his personal brand to win, instead of stressing his policies, he could lose, Ryan suggested.
“The person who defines that race is going to win the race. If this is about Donald Trump and his personality, he isn’t going to win it,” Ryan said.
Ryan had a notoriously rocky relationship with the president throughout their two years working together. Even after tepidly endorsing him in the summer during the 2016 campaign, Ryan repeatedly denounced things the president said. At one point, Ryan reportedly considered rescinding his endorsement.
But when Trump was president, Ryan learned to let the White House — not him — answer for Trump’s controversial remarks and to stay mostly in the background.
Ryan has kept out of the spotlight since retiring from Congress in January, where he had been speaker since 2015. He served in the House for 20 years.
The Wisconsin Republican reflected on the achievements and failures during his time at the helm of the House GOP, including passing a sweeping tax code overhaul in 2017 and failing to hammer through a repeal of the 2010 health care law known as Obamacare.
Ryan pinned blame on the conservative House Freedom Caucus for holding up his chamber’s bill, drawing out the overall Obamacare repeal process and giving Democrats time to mobilize public support against the GOP’s efforts.
“That three-month delay eroded public support for it, so by the time it got over to the Senate, it was hanging on a thread,” Ryan said.
If the HFC did not delay the House’s repeal version, Ryan thinks it would have passed the Senate.
In his speech Monday, which focused mainly on policies and not presidential politics, Ryan advocated for stronger border security; a solution for so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who grew up here; and to restructure the U.S. visa program to fill workforce needs instead of bringing over extended family members of people already in the U.S.
Burgess: The only thing Trump did wrong was ‘Win an election [no one] expected him to win’
Correction 11:55 a.m. | An earlier version of this story misidentified the state Ryan represented in Congress.