The most important election of the year, apart from the one occurring on November 8, takes place today. That’s when Speaker of the House Paul Ryan goes up against the vice president of a water filtration company, Paul Nehlen, in the first serious primary challenge that Ryan has faced in the 18 years since he was elected to Congress.
The odds for Nehlen are long. Of nearly 5,000 primaries held between 1992 and 2012, only 31 challengers toppled the incumbent. Nehlen also seems a little goofy, if a campaign ad is anything to go by. He has a much smaller bank account, too, with about $175,000 in cash on hand as compared to Ryan’s nearly $10 million. And one poll has him getting creamed.
Nehlen’s competence and leadership ability, however, are beside the point. This is a national fight about the direction of Republican politics, and outsiders like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin have shown up to campaign for Nehlen, while numerous conservatives, including icon Phyllis Schlafly, have offered their support. What’s more, we have been here before. In 2014, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantorwent down to defeat in a primary against David Brat, a college professor who had spent only $200,000 in comparison to Cantor’s $5 million. It should have been a warning to Republicans nationwide that voters didn’t like Cantor’s pro-trade, pro-bailout, pro-immigration reform record. But few wanted to hear the lesson. Instead, the party put its hopes behind Jeb Bush. […]
We can see more clearly now that Brat’s victory was an early battle in a civil war among Republicans that will come into full view on Tuesday. […] Establishment Democrats and Republicans both favor high levels of military intervention, trade, and immigration, even when it puts them out of sync with their own voters. Democrats pretend to be against our trade deals, until they’re elected. Republicans pretend to be against legalization of people here illegally, until they’re elected. Both claim to hate war, but neither seeks to reduce the military presence of the United States on the world stage.