Paul Ryan Will Open the GOP Convention While Battling a Primary Challenge by Jay Newton-Small @FortuneMagazine July 17, 2016, 5:04 PM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Linkedin Share icons On Monday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan will gavel in the 2016 Republican National Convention, which is expected to crown Donald Trump the GOP presidential nominee. That same day, $150,000 worth of television ads will begin airing in Ryan’s Wisconsin House district to support his reelection ahead of an Aug. 9 primary challenge from a self-described Trump acolyte. Ryan isn’t the first speaker, or leader, to be in trouble. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his seat in a surprise primary loss in Virginia in 2014. House Speaker Tom Foley, a Democrat, lost his reelection bid in 1994. But before that, you have to go back to 1862 for another example of an unseated Speaker. “Our Wisconsin sources, both GOP and independent, have told us Ryan should be fine. I think that’s right, but I also recall being told that Eric Cantor would win in a walk in June 2014,” says Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “With low primary turnouts you just never know.” What Donald Trump’s Mike Pence Pick Means for the Election Ryan, like Cantor and former Speaker John Boehner—whose abrupt resignation last year made Ryan an unwitting Speaker—is being buffeted by the same forces that are rupturing the Republican Party; the same forces that led to this week’s nomination of Trump, an anti-establishment outsider. There are no heroes in Republican politics any more, and those that aspire to the title are chained to rocks to have their liver eaten daily by an eagle, a House GOP aide somewhat bitterly quipped citing the Greek God’s punishment of Prometheus for giving man fire. Thus far, Ryan has managed to straddle the revolution and the establishment in a strikingly unique fashion. His 2010 fiscal conservative bible, The Path to Prosperity, gives him street cred with Tea Partiers and his turn as Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate and 2013 budget deal author with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray have burnished his establishment bonafides. But the longer he’s a leader, the more prone he becomes to attacks from the anti-establishment crowd. Take his primary challenger: Paul Nehlen, a businessman and entrepreneur. Nehlen says Ryan’s a faker. “Paul Ryan says he’s for smaller government and he’s funded every big government idea that there is,” Nehlen says in an interview with TIME. “Not only has Paul Ryan not died on any hill for a position he believes in to make government smaller, he hasn’t even skinned his knee.” House Republicans Demand Another Hillary Clinton Email Nehlen brags that he will this week be rolling out the endorsement of two to 10 sitting members of Congress. If true, that would mark a small but significant rebellion against the Speaker from within his own ranks. Scenes from the Republican National Convention Replay E-mail Tweet Facebook Linkedin Share icons Fullscreen gallery Texas delegates to the Republican National Convention hold their hands over their hearts for the U.S. National Anthem. Mike Segar — Reuters Corey Lewandowski arrives to the floor of Quicken Loans Arena. Matt Rourke — AP Demonstrators chant during an anti-Donald Trump rally in Cleveland. Jim Watson — AFP/Getty Images Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, bangs the gavel to officially the open the first day of the Republican National Convention. Win McNamee — Getty Images A delegate appears on the floor. Tom Williams — CQ-Roll Call,Inc./Getty Images Members of the group, Bikers for Trump head to a rally for the Republican Presidential candidate at Settlers Landing Park in Cleveland. John Minchillo — AP A delegate wears campaign buttons in support of Donald Trump before the start of the Republican National Convention. Andrew Harrer — Bloomberg via Getty Images Two men dressed in suits stand as people gather downtown for the first day. Jeff J Mitchell — Getty Images Delegate George Engelbach, right, gestures to his hat while laughing with a fellow delegate. John Taggart — Bloomberg via Getty Images The Tennessee delegation section is seen before the opening. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds — AFP/Getty Images Booklets are placed on chairs as the Quicken Loans Arena is prepared for the arrival of delegates on the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on the first day. Joe Raedle — Getty Images A campaign bus from Herman Cain’s 2012 Republican candidacy is covered with signs for the comedian Samantha Bee amid preparations for the arrival of visitors and delegates. Dominick Reuter — AFP/Getty Images A woman takes a selfie from the stage as preparations get underway on July 17th. Jeff Swensen — Getty Images Women pose nude for photographer Spencer Tunick’s art installation “Everything She Says Means Everything” near the location of the Republican National Convention. Lucas Jackson — Reuters A protester carrying a peace flag walks in downtown Cleveland. Patrick Semansky — AP Anti-Trump organizations and Black Lives Matter protesters walk through downtown ahead of the Republican Convention. Douliery Olivier — Sipa US/AP Workers place a sign as they prepare at Quicken Loans Arena for the convention. Matt Rourke — AP A Cleveland Police officer directs traffic as protesters march in the street. Victor J. Blue — Bloomberg via Getty Images Talk show host Stephen Colbert performs on the floor of the Quicken Arena during a taping of his program. Colbert plans to do live, on-the-ground coverage of the convention. Carolyn Kaster — AP A protester dressed as Trump walks past restaurant patrons ahead of the convention. Many protesters are expected at the convention. John Taggart — Bloomberg via Getty Images U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) participates in a rehearsal before the Republican National Convention. After initially withholding his endorsement of Trump, Ryan agreed to speak at the RNC. Aaron Bernstein — Reuters Police officers use bicycles to create cordons around a protest march by various groups, including “Black Lives Matter” and “Shut Down Trump and the RNC,” ahead of the convention. Adrees Latif — Reuters Preparations continue in the arena ahead of the RNC. Jonathan Ernst — Reuters More on Fortune Trump's Convention Will Promote His Own Family and Business Ventures Turkish President Reassures Country as Attempted Coup Falters How Great Photographers Do Food Porn These aerial views of New York City will take your breath away ∨ Show Full Caption 1 of Though he isn’t yet facing the outright rebellion Boehner once did, Ryan’s record as Speaker has been spotty. He has been working with committees to craft a conservative agenda for America, a substantive policy platform in response to what he sees as Trump’s relatively policy-free campaign. He views this as the foundation for the future of a party struggling to look beyond this week, let alone past November. But he’s also failed, as a former Budget committee chair, to get consensus on a budget—the first time a GOP-controlled House has not passed a budget in recent history—and has let slip through some must-pass items, like funding to fight the Zika virus. (Ryan rejected a bipartisan Senate bill and Senate Democrats rejected his bill as full of “poison pills,” as Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer called them, such as defunding Obamare and Planned Parenthood, leading to an unresolved stalemate.) What Donald Trump’s Personality Says About a Potential Election Is Ryan really in trouble? He’s in trouble enough to be running television ads. A recent poll had Ryan ahead 43% to Nehlen’s 32%, but that shows a race tightening—Ryan was ahead by 40 points or more in two previous polls. Wisconsin is one of the few states that bucked the Trump train, its powerful GOP establishment depriving Trump of a primary win. Ryan also spends an enormous amount of time in the district, returning home every weekend to spend time with his wife and three young children. At the same time, Ryan’s initial refusal to support Trump and his not-so-thinly veiled criticism of his party’s likely nominee hasn’t helped him with GOP primary voters in Wisconsin’s 1st District, according to David Wasserman, who follows House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “My impression is that [Ryan] only would’ve been in danger had he continued to hold out on Trump,” Wasserman says. “He starts off with a much deeper base in the district that Cantor ever did.” They say in politics that where you sit is more important than where you stand. And the more Ryan sits atop anything—the House, the convention—the more of a target he becomes. He’ll likely beat Nehlen, but as the Wall Street Journal warns, Nehlen is only the first of many who would see Ryan ‚and what he stands for in the GOP—fall.