Paul Ryan’s Retirement Could Hurt Republican Fundraising Efforts at a Time When They Need It Most
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s announcement of his impending retirement in 2019 means that the Republican Party will not only lose one of its most recognizable faces, but one of its most prolific fundraisers.
A key part of the House Speaker’s role is fundraising. Ryan was initially reluctant to take the top job in the House, which calls for a massive amount of fundraising. But, he has proved to be a master at it. In the 2018 election cycle alone, Ryan’s political operation has raised an unprecedented $54 million, including $11 million in the first three months of 2018. Of that, he has transferred more than $40 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House Republicans.
“The Speaker has kept up his breakneck fundraising schedule, traveling to more than 30 states and over 70 cities to help raise money for House Republicans this cycle, while keeping his pledge to spend weekends at home in Wisconsin,” Ryan’s organization said when announcing the fundraising figures.
Ryan said in his announcement that he would continue to serve as House Speaker until the end of his term in January of 2019, and told Republicans in Congress he would continue his fundraising efforts.
“Speaker Ryan is committed to retaining the House Majority and he plans to continue traveling on behalf of our members and candidates throughout the 2018 midterms. He has an ambitious travel schedule planned for the months ahead and will keep touting our conservative reform agenda across the country,” said Kevin Seifert, Executive Director of Team Ryan, the speaker’s joint fundraising committee.
One Republican donor told Fortune there is concern that donors will shift their focus to the Senate following the news of Ryan’s departure. Another GOP donor said he hasn’t heard those concerns. Either way, even worrying about Ryan maintaining his fundraising momentum is a headache the Republicans don’t need.
The party is already facing an uphill battle to retain control of the House of Representatives. The party in the White House historically loses seats after a President’s first two years in power, even when that President is not as controversial a figure as Donald Trump. This historical tide is compounded by a wave of retirements – including Ryan’s – as well as a fundraising deficit. Despite Ryan’s hefty haul, individual candidates are lagging behind their Democratic counterparts. In the final quarter of 2017, for instance, 40 Democratic challengers out-raised 30 House incumbents, according to figures from the Federal Election Commission, touted by the DCCC.
The NRCC did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But a statement from the committee’s chairman, Rep. Steve Stivers, indicates they believe Ryan will continue to fundraise.
“I’m thankful for all Paul has done for the NRCC and am confident he has set us on a path to keep our majority. Paul is also a man of follow-through and I know he will continue to be an asset to us this fall,” Stivers said in a statement.
In talking points about Ryan’s retirement sent from the NRCC to Republican operatives, which were obtained by Fortune, organizers stressed several times that the Speaker’s decision will not impede fundraising, noting that they have more cash on hand than the DCCC, and will continue to shatter fundraising records. The talking points also specifically mention fundraising as a “team effort,”that includes Vice President Pence, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. (The latter two will likely vie to replace Ryan as Speaker should Republicans keep their majority).
“The same people fretting today about the GOP’s fundraising hopes are the ones who thought Ryan could never match—let alone exceed—John Boehner’s performance,” the talking points say, referring to Ryan’s predecessor.