Former U.S. House Speaker and Janesville native Paul Ryan said this weekend that he will not support a White House bid by former President Donald Trump — and that he’ll skip his party’s national convention in Wisconsin if Trump is the GOP nominee.
Ryan, who spoke at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee last week and appeared on local news programs over the weekend, made clear that he will support "anybody but Trump" in the 2024 presidential contest.
Ryan argued that Trump has cost the Republican party seats in Congress, and said he’ll skip the Republican National Convention, scheduled to take place in Milwaukee next summer, if Trump is the nominee.
"I’m backing the person not named Donald Trump," he told WITI-TV in Milwaukee. "If we nominate Trump again, we’re going to lose again. It’s just that clear."
Ryan represented Janesville in Congress from 1999 to 2019. He was elected U.S. House Speaker in 2015, a job he held for more than three years until stepping down midway through Trump’s term in office. Once considered a standard-bearer for Wisconsin's Republican Party, Ryan was also Mitt Romney’s running mate on the GOP presidential ticket against former President Barack Obama in 2012.
Trump responded to Ryan’s claims on his social networking platform, Truth Social, attacking Ryan for his current job on the board of Fox Corporation.
"Paul Ryan is a loser, Mitt Romney could have won without him," Trump wrote. "Paul Ryan is destroying Fox, and couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in the Republican Party!"
In some ways, Trump and Ryan represent two distinct political approaches within the Republican Party, said Lilly Goren, a political scientist at Carroll University in Waukesha.
"Ryan is also positioned in a lot of ways as kind of representing the old guard of the Republican Party at this point — and certainly not the Trump wing or the Trump direction of the party," she told Wisconsin Public Radio.
Those internal divisions within the party are well illustrated in a critical swing state like Wisconsin, she added.
"In Wisconsin, we do have some of the fractionalization that you see nationally with regard to the Republican Party," she said.
In more rural parts of Wisconsin, Goren said, there is larger support for Trump, while suburban areas — such as the all-important WOW counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington — tend to support the more traditional Republican Party, of which Ryan was an important figure for many years.
During his weekend interviews, Ryan argued that Trump would lose the presidency a second time in 2024 because Trump turned off moderate, suburban voters. He also blamed Trump for costing Republicans victories in close races in the 2018 and 2022 midterm elections. That argument has been echoed by other Republicans like Romney.
"I think even diehard Trump supporters know we are better off with somebody else," Ryan told WISN-TV. "Swing suburban voters do not vote for Donald Trump. We will lose this state again if he’s our nominee, and I really believe we will win this state if we have a nominee not named Trump."
Wisconsin is expected to once again be a pivotal state in the upcoming presidential contest. Milwaukee will host both the first Republican presidential debate later this year, and the Republican National Convention in 2024.