THE RED FLAG ASKS IS PAUL RYAN THE MARTYR OF OBJECTIVISM OR JUST AN OPPORTUNIST?

Paul Ryan Retiring From Congress

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announces he will not run for re-election at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announces he will not run for re-election at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

With David Folkenflik

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan says he’s getting out the game – not seeking re-election. We’ll look at what it means for his Grand Old Party.

Guests:

Lisa Desjardins, correspondent for PBS Newshour. (@LisaDNews)

Charles Sykes, author and commentator, host of The Daily Standard podcast, contributing editor to Weekly Standard, MSNBC analyst. (@SykesCharlie)

Kim Alfano, Republican Party strategist and founder of Alfano Communications. (@alfanocomm)

From The Reading List:

PBS Newshour: The Legacy Of Paul Ryan — "When his predecessor, John Boehner, stepped down as the speaker of the House in 2015, Paul Ryan did not want the job."

House Speaker Paul Ryan is leaving politics – he says for good – after this year. The 48 year old lawmaker says he does not want to end up a weekend father to his children. Ryan says he’s achieved what he set out to do as speaker, pointing to the huge rewrite of the nation’s tax code. Yet his party is deeply split over President Trump.. and its hold on the house of representatives is increasingly in doubt.

This hour, On Point: the retirement of Paul Ryan – and what it says about his Republican Party and our country’s politics.

--David Folkenflik

This program aired on April 12, 2018.  http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2018/04/12/paul-ryan-to-step-aside

BACKSTORY

Paul Ryan was a great admirer and disciple of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism.  John Higgs in Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century (2015) insists that Ayn Rand was a Satanist who had admires in the right-wing American Christian and business communities.  Ronald Reagan was an admirer.  Alan Greenspan, who would spend nineteen years as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a member of her inner circle.  The Republican Congressman Paul Ryan said in 2005 that "I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my values systems are, and what my beliefs are.  It's inspired me so much that it's required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.  We start with her longest and last novel Atlas Shrugged."

Locked within Ryan's jeremiad, unbeknownst to him is the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.  Steven Pinker in Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, And Progress (2018) states that if one wanted to single out a thinker who represented the opposite of humanism (indeed, of pretty much every argument in this book), one couldn't do better than the German philologist Friedrich Nietzsche.  Nietzsche argued that it's good to be a callous, egoistic, megalomaniacal sociopath.  Not good for everyone, of course, but that doesn't matter: the lives of the mass of humanity (the "botched and the bungled," the "chattering dwarves," the "flea-beetles") count for nothing.  What is worthy in life is for a superman (Ubermensch, literally "over-man") to transcend good and evil, exert a will to power, and achieve heroic glory.  Only through such heroism can the potential of the species be realized and humankind lifted to a higher plane of being.  The feats of greatness may not consist, though, in curing disease, feeding the hungry, or bringing about peace, but rather in artistic masterworks and martial conquest.  Western civilization has gone steadily downhill since the heyday of Homeric Greeks, Aryan warrior, helmeted Vikings, and other manly men.  It has been especially corrupted by the "slave morality" of Christianity, the worship of reason by the Enlightenment, and the liberal movements of the 19th century that sought social reform and shared prosperity.  Such effete sentimentality led only to decadence and degeneration.  Those who have seen the truth should "philosophize with a hammer" and give modern civilization the final shove that would bring on the redemptive cataclysm from which a new order would rise. 

This is the hidden philosophy behind Rand's Atlas Shrugged.  Pinker posits that though she later tried to conceal it, Ayn Rand's celebration of selfishness, her deification of the heroic capitalist, and her disdain for the general welfare had Nietzsche written all over them.

Ayn Rand herself explains in The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept Of Egoism (1961) the "values" inspired by "Objectivism."  The cover explicates that "for the first time in a book form, here are collected articles on the ethics of Objectivism, the challenging philosophy that has forged a revolution among today's intellectuals."  In "The Objectivist Ethics" Rand states:

Since I am to speak on the Objectivist Ethics, I shall begin by quoting its best representative--John Galt, in Atlas Shrugged"--"Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by our code of morality, you have cried that your code had been broken, that the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak and too selfish to spill all the blood it required.  You damned man, you damned existence, and you damned this earth, but never dared to question your code....  You went on crying that your code was noble, but human nature was not good enough to practice it.  And no one rose to ask the question: Good?--by what standard?

"You wanted to know John Galt's identity.  I am the man who has asked that question."

"Yes, this is an age of moral crisis.... Your moral code has reached its climax, the blind alley at the end of its course.  And if you wish to go on living, what you now need is not to return to morality...but to discover it."

Rand the goes on to question, what is morality, or ethics?  It is a code of values to guide man's choices and actions--the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life.  Ethics, as a science, deals with discovering and defining such a code.

The first question that has to be answered, as a precondition of any attempt to define, to judge or to accept any specific system of ethics, is: Why does man need a code of values?

Let me stress this.  The first question is not: what particular code of values should man accept?  The first question is: Does man need values at all--and why?

Is the concept of value, of "good or evil" an arbitrary human invention, unrelated to, un-derived from and unsupported by any facts of reality--or is it based on a metaphysical fact, on an unalterable condition of man's existence?  (I use the word "metaphysical" to mean: that which pertains to arbitrary human convention, a mere custom, decree that man must guide his actions by a set of principle--or is there a fact of reality that demands it?  Is ethics the province of whims: of personal emotions, social edicts and mystic revelations--or an objective necessity?

Rand concludes:  It is philosophy that sets men's goals and determines their course; it is only philosophy that can save them now.  Today, the world is facing a choice: if civilization is to survive, it is the altruist morality that men have to reject.

I will closing with the words of John Galt, which I address, as he did, to all the moralists of altruism past or present:

"You have been using fear as your weapon and have been bringing death to man as his punishment for rejecting your morality.  We offer him life as his reward for accepting ours."

'This Is Going To Be A Challenging Year': Ryan Retirement Adds To GOP Worries

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., walks away after announcing that he will not seek re-election for another term in Congress, during a news conference at the Capitol Wednesday.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

As House Republicans poured out of the closed-door meeting where Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told them he won't run for re-election this year, there was a constant theme: Things are on track. All is well. And a sitting speaker's decision to call it quits after less than three years in charge of the House chamber shouldn't be taken — at all — as a sign the GOP is facing an increasingly challenging election cycle.

"I go back to my district and people couldn't be more ecstatic about the things we're doing," Florida Rep. Brian Mast said. "I'm not concerned about it at all."

That's despite the fact that Ryan is just the latest of a record number of Republicans to forgo a run for re-election this fall.

Most Republicans said they were surprised by the timing of Ryan's announcement, but not that he was planning to leave. For months the speaker has battled rumors about his retirement. He began seriously considering leaving the post back in December, before Congress passed the sweeping tax overhaul he helped conceive, according to aides familiar with his thinking.

"It doesn't send a message at all" that Republicans are worried they'll lose the majority, insisted Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello, one of the GOP lawmakers retiring in the face of a difficult-looking re-election campaign. "Others may try to spin it that way, but I don't see it that way."

Costello, Mast and most other Republicans stuck to their message in the hallways of Congress Wednesday morning, but speaking on background and away from cameras, many GOP lawmakers expressed concerns. The record number of retirements — up to 39 with Ryan's announcement — has already sent signals the party isn't confident in its chances. Adding a sitting House speaker in the prime of his career to that list certainly makes that matter worse.



The symbolism and signaling matter to two important constituencies: donors being asked to bankroll House races, and party activists needed to knock on doors and reach out to the voters needed to win elections.

"Speaker Ryan sees what is coming in November, and is calling it quits rather than standing behind a House Republican agenda," said Tyler Law, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a statement. "Stay tuned for more retirements as Republicans increasingly realize that their midterm prospects are doomed."

Democrats are feeling increasingly confident in their chances. In addition to the historically high number of Republican retirements, many of the other classic signs of a wave election are showing themselves: low approval ratings for the incumbent president, a consistent voter preference for the out-of-power party in polling questions and a growing enthusiasm gap among Democratic and Republican activists.

Last month, Democrat Conor Lamb won a special election in a Pennsylvania district so historically safe for Republicans that Democrats hadn't bothered to run a candidate in 2016 and 2014.

"My kids aren't getting any younger"

Ryan insisted the looming prospect of returning to the minority wasn't a factor in his decision. "You all know me: I didn't take this job to get the gavel in the first place. I'm not a guy who thinks about it like that," he said at a news conference. "This really was two things: I have accomplished much of what I came here to do. And my kids aren't getting any younger. And if I stay they're only going to know me as a weekend dad, and that's just something I constantly can't do. And that's really it right there."

The speaker also said President Trump's chaotic leadership style didn't factor into his retirement decision, but some members privately worry that it will be hard to escape the perception that the Republican Party is suffering from a crisis of unity and planning.

A protracted leadership fight could make that worse. The absence of a clear successor to Ryan could allow an influential bloc of far-right conservatives to gain more power among House Republicans.

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have grown frustrated that Ryan failed to fulfill promises to move Congress radically to the right after Republicans won complete control in Washington, D.C. Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told reporters Wednesday that leadership isn't on his "bucket list" but he refused to say whether he plans to run for speaker.

Meadows said many of the decisions will come down to whether Republicans are still in control of the House after the election in November. "If everyone knew who was going to be the majority party in November we'd be having very different discussions," Meadows said. "Not only on who is the speaker but who's going to be minority leader."

"A pretty damn toxic political environment"

"This is going to be a challenging year," Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent said.

Dent is among the ranks of retiring Republicans, and that status has led him to become much more blunt than many of his colleagues about how Trump has scrambled the GOP's identity and electoral prospects.

"I've said this many times: The litmus test for being Republican these days is not about any given set of ideals or principles. It's about loyalty to [President Trump]. And that's challenging. If you're a member of Congress right now, particularly in a swing or marginal district, and you go out there and you put some distance between yourself and the president, well guess what? The loyalists to the president say you're betraying him. If you put some distance with president, those in the Resistance movement will say you're a sycophant; it's never enough. So you're really in a no-win position if you're running in this cycle, for many of my colleagues in the marginal and swing districts."

And because of that, Dent doesn't see Ryan's retirement as having any direct effect on GOP candidates' chances this fall. "I believe each member's going to be running in their district in a pretty damn toxic political environment. We all know that," Dent said. "It's going to be a referendum on the president of the United States and his conduct in office. It's not about Paul Ryan."  https://www.npr.org/2018/04/11/601606641/this-is-going-to-be-a-chal...

DEVALUING VALUES

John Nichols in Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to The Most Dangerous People In America (2017) calls Paul Ryan "Party Boy."  Nichols posits that House Speaker Paul Ryan told the House Republican Caucus just one month before the 2016 presidential election that Donald Trump's shocking comments about women, as recorded on the infamous Access Hollywood tape, were "not anywhere in keeping with our party's principles and values."

"There are basically two things that I want to make really clear, as for myself as your Speaker," Ryan explained, in what was supposed to be a private conference call with members of the House Republican Caucus.  "I am not going to defend Donald Trump--not now, not in the future.  As you probably heard, I dis-invited him from my first congressional district GOP event this weekend--a thing I do every year.  And I'm not going to be campaigning with him over the next 30 days."

He stood his ground--firmly--unapologetically--for the better part of two weeks.  Then Ryan cheerfully announced that he had not just cast an early ballot for Trump, but that he was urging fellow Republicans to do the same.

"I stand where I've stood all fall and all summer," Ryan chirped on the Fox News show Fox and Friends.  "In fact I already voted here in Janesville for our nominee last week in early voting.  We need to support our entire Republican ticket."

Then Ryan went on to rip the Democratic nominee and to speak with considerable passion about the absolute necessity of electing a Republican Congress and a Republican president.  Paul Ryan was the chief wrangler.

Despite his occasional protestations to the contrary, despite the dippy media story-line that imagined again and again and again that Ryan might break with the nominee and stand strong for the historic republican values that the billionaire populist so ardently assaulted, the speaker invariably put party loyalties ahead of principles.  He did so during the campaign.  He did so during the transition.  He did so when he got 217 House Republicans to back a scheme to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act that Trump claimed--disingenuously, as it would never survive Senate scrutiny--as the first real legislative achievement of his presidency.

This is the essential understanding with regard to Paul Ryan: he will never stand up to Trump when it matters.  Never.  Paul Ryan will sacrifice any principle, any ideal, on the altar of his own ambition.  And now his ambition is wedded with the Trump presidency that Ryan, to a greater extent than any other Republican, made possible.  That was good for Trump when he needed Ryan to keep Republican voters in line at the close of the 2016 campaign, and that is good now for Ryan [in spite of his so-called retirement] because an ill-prepared and unfocused president is ripe for manipulation by one of Capitol Hill's slyest self-promoters.

Ryan endeavors to portray himself as a diligent public servant who simply wants to do the heavy lifting required to reform government and the economy, even if his "reforms" consistently involve shaping budgets and rewriting tax codes to favor the interest of the billionaires, bankers and [Kochtopus] corporate CEOs who donate so generously to the many campaign funds he manages.

As Washington's most determined political careerist, Paul Ryan knows that when the political winds shift he must shift with them.  Still, the man's cynicism can be breathtaking.

The House Speaker pitches himself as a high priest, speaking unfortunate truths about debts and deficits; as the unforgiving foe of social spending who would willingly sacrifice Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as we know them in order to achieve debt reduction.  Ryan has branded himself well in Republican circles, so well that he has parlayed himself into contention for the key committee chairmanships, the speaker-ship and a place on a national ticket.  The Congressman from Wisconsin inspires confidence among Republicans by pitching himself as the champion of an old-school Republican agenda of fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets.

But Ryan is nothing of the sort.  He's actually a hypocritical big spender--at least when Wall Street, the insurance industry and the military-industrial complex call.  More like Trump than he might want to admit, Ryan has been a steady voter for unconscionable health care policies, unsustainable bailouts of big banks, unfunded mandates and unnecessary wars.  Few members of Congress have run up such very big tabs while doing so little to figure out how to pay the piper.

According to Thomas Kaplan in Poised to Balloon to $1 Trillion, U.S. Deficit Fuels Fear of Crisis (The New York Times Tuesday, April 10, 2018) that the tax reduction bill that Ryan brags so much about will cause the deficit to balloon by $1 trillion by 2020 despite healthy economic growth.

The national debt, which has exceeded $21 trillion will soar to more than $33 trillion in 2028, according to the budget office.  By then, debt held by the public will almost match the size of the nation's economy, reaching 96 percent of gross domestic product, a higher level than any point since just after World War II and well past the level that economists say could court a crisis--driving up interest rates, raise borrowing costs for the private sector, tank stock prices--slow down the economy, which would only drive the deficit higher.

The budget office forecast is the first since President Trump signed a sweeping tax overhaul, then signed legislation to significantly increase military and domestic spending over the next two years.  The figures are sobering, even in a political climate where deficit concerns appear to be receding.

The tax overhaul, which includes permanent tax cuts for corporations and temporary ones for individuals, will increase the size of the economy by an average of 0.7 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the budget office.

But that added economic growth does not come close to paying for the tax overhaul, which the budget office said would add more than $1.8 trillion to deficits over that period, from lost tax revenue and higher interest payments.

And if the temporary tax cuts for individuals are extended past their scheduled expiration at the end of 2025, the price tag for the tax overhaul would be even greater.

Trump has talked about embarking upon "Phase 2" of tax cuts, which could include making those individual tax cuts permanent.

For their part, Republicans were remarkably quiet: "without question, we have challenging work ahead," said Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas, the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

By 2023, according to the budget office, interest costs are projected to exceed what the government spends on the military.  By 2028, interest payments will reach $915 billion, more than triple the interest costs last year.

The government's mounting debt has seemed of little consequence on Capitol Hill in recent months as Republicans in Congress passed a sweeping package of tax cuts.  But in a sign that Republicans are growing concerned about the political liability of soaring deficits, the House will vote Thursday on a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets.

Representative Jeff Duncan, a conservative Republican from South Carolina twittered to House Democrats: "I look forward to seeing you vote for the balanced budget amendment later this week.  That is of course assuming you are actually serious about addressing our debt."

Since such constitutional amendments require two-third of the House and Senate to agree, it is unlikely to pass Congress, let alone be ratified by the states.

But the flurry of recent legislation is making it difficult for Republicans to continue blaming President Barack Obama and Democrats for the government's fiscal condition.

Before passing the tax overhaul and the spending legislation, lawmakers were already facing worrisome projections about growing deficits, driven by an aging population and increased spending on Medicare and Social Security as well as growing interest costs.

The budget office now projects that the deficit will top $1 trillion two years sooner than it had expected last June.

Mr. Hall, the budget office director, said that beyond a decade, the debt would continue to rise compared with the size of the economy.  He warned of the possible consequences if lawmakers put off addressing the trajectory of the government's finances.

"The longer you wait," he said, "the more draconian the measures have to be to fix the problem."

John Nichols posits that Ryan endeavors to portray himself as a diligent public servant who simply wants to do the heavy lifting required to reform government and the economy, even if his "reforms" consistently involve shaping budgets and corporate CEOs who donate so generously to the many campaign funds he manages.

Ryan's power extends from the success or failure of the Republican Party that will be led for the foreseeable future by Donald Trump.  So, for the foreseeable future, Ryan is going to be Trump's man on the hill.  No doubt about it.  No questions asked as Washington's most determined political careerist, Paul Ryan knows that when the political winds shift he must shift with them, [hence his distancing himself from Trump via retirement].  Still, the man's cynicism can be breathtaking.

The House Speaker pitches himself as a high priest, speaking unfortunate truths about debts and deficits; as the unforgiving foe of social spending who would willingly sacrifice Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as we know them in order to achieve debt reduction.  Ryan has branded himself well in Republican circles, so well that he has parlayed himself into contention for the key committee chairmanships, the speaker-ship and a place on a national ticket.  The congressman from Wisconsin inspires confidence among Republicans by pitching himself as the champion of an old-school Republican agenda of fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets.

But Ryan is nothing of the sort.  He's actually a hypocritical big spender--at least when Wall Street, the insurance industry and the military-industrial complex call.  More like Trump than he might want to admit, Ryan has been a steady voter for unconscionable health care policies, unsustainable bailouts of big banks, unfunded mandates and unnecessary wars.  Few members of Congress have run up such very big tabs while doing so little to figure out how to pay the piper.

"Congressman Paul Ryan can grandstand about the debt all he wants, but at the end of the day, Ryan is a root cause of many of the financial issues our country faces today," explained Rob Zerban, a local official in Ryan's home district who challenged the congressman several years ago.  "From supporting two unfunded wars, to dumping millions of senior citizens into the Medicare Part D 'donut hole' while tying the hands of the government to negotiate prescription drugs prices, and from fighting for subsidies for Big Oil that his family personally benefits from, to supporting the unfunded Bush tax cuts for his wealthiest campaign contributors, Paul Ryan's hypocrisy is astounding."

Nothing aided and abetted Trump more as he sought the Republican nomination than Ryan's constant signaling that, even if Trump made Republican elites uncomfortable, the party's supposedly sober and responsible leaders would stand for Trump if he was nominated.

Ryan's words and deeds identified Trump as a troublesome but acceptable controversial but legitimate candidate.  And that was all that Trump needed, in the primary season and in the fall to pull the party together sufficiently to prevail.

Ryan cleared the way for the billionaire--not because the Wisconsinite liked Trump but because, as a fiercely sectarian political careerist, Ryan never has and never will put the best interest of his country ahead of the immediate demands of partisanship--and of Paul Ryan.

Tax Day 2018: Impacts Of Trump Tax Plan

3:13

With taxes due this week, NPR's Michel Martin talks with the Brookings Institution's David Wessel about the effect so far of the new tax law, and issues the law will raise in the future.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The deadline to file federal taxes is now. And according to the IRS, a large number of Americans - about 1 in 7, or more than 20 million people - waits until the last week to file. So it's likely that some of us are thinking about the taxes that we need to file or maybe even doing the paperwork as we speak. But even if you're not, this is the time of year when taxes are on our mind, so we thought we'd take a minute to think more broadly about taxes. We called David Wessel for this. He's a senior fellow in economic studies at Brookings, which he came to after spending three decades at The Wall Street Journal. David, thanks so much for speaking with us.

DAVID WESSEL: Good to be with you, Michel.

MARTIN: I think many people will remember that Congress passed and the president signed this large tax bill last year. So does it have any effect on people's taxes this year? Just remind us, if you would, about, you know, what happened and what the effect is going to be.

WESSEL: Well, it was a big tax cut, as you say, huge by any measure. It cut taxes for a lot of businesses and for some individuals. But this will affect how much money they pay next year. The biggest effect it's having this year is that people are seeing a smaller amount of money taken out of their check each week in withholding because that's the money that's going towards next year's taxes.

MARTIN: So there's some big questions about taxes that have yet to be answered. I mean, this bill that was passed was essentially a tax cut. I'm really - I guess I'm wondering what kinds of conversations that people like yourself are having. You know what I mean? Are there still questions or issues about taxes that we still should be talking about?

WESSEL: Oh, absolutely. I mean, first of all, this is not sustainable. They cut taxes, in my view, too much. At some point, they're going to have to raise them. So that's the first thing we talk about. The second thing is that they made something simpler, like they did away with the personal exemption you get for each member of your household and increased the standard deduction. But anybody who has a small business, sometimes called pass-throughs, it's incredibly complicated. And then there are some big problems in our society that we look to the tax code to address. And we didn't do anything here to help slow the growth of healthcare spending. And this tax bill will do less to narrow the gap between winners and losers in our economy than the tax code did before the big tax bill.

MARTIN: So, David, before we let you go, what's the next conversation we are likely to have about taxes?

WESSEL: Well, one possibility is the Democrats do really well in November 2018 and they start to try and raise taxes on businesses and the rich. That's a possibility. Another possibility is even though nobody seems to be worrying about the federal deficit and the federal debt today, at some point, something's going to happen to force that action in Congress on that. And at that point, I think they'll be weighing - how much do we want to raise taxes, and how much do we want to cut spending on retirement and health programs and so forth? And at some point, we're going to think about things like a carbon tax or other taxes that are designed to both raise money and reduce the dangers of global warming. And I think we'll get to that at some point, but I'm not very good at knowing when that will come.

MARTIN: That's David Wessel. He's a senior fellow in economics at the Brookings Institution. That's a think tank in Washington, D.C. He joined us from his office there. David Wessel, Thank you.

WESSEL: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2018 NPR.  https://www.npr.org/2018/04/15/602666004/tax-day-2018-impacts-of-tr...

WHY RYAN MUST RETIRE

GOP increasingly fears loss of House, focuses on saving Senate majority


J. Scott Applewhite | AP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, tells reporters he will not run for re-election amid Republican concerns over keeping their majority in the House of Representatives, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday.

Sean Sullivan, The Washington Post • April 12, 2018 8:43 am

WASHINGTON — Republicans are increasingly worried they will lose control of the House in the midterm elections, furiously directing money and resources to hold and potentially boost their narrow majority in the Senate.

To many, the Senate is emerging as a critical barrier against Democrats demolishing President Donald Trump’s agenda beginning in 2019. Worse yet, some in the GOP fear, Democrats could use complete control of Congress to co-opt the ideologically malleable president and advance their own priorities.

Democratic enthusiasm is surging in suburban districts that House Republicans are struggling to fortify, causing GOP officials, donors and strategists to fret. They have greater confidence in the more rural red states Trump won convincingly that make up the bulk of the Senate battlefield.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and his allies are seeking to capitalize on concerns about the House. He is leading an effort to motivate conservative voters by reminding them that his side of the Capitol has the unilateral power to confirm federal judges and Trump administration nominees.

Trump is showing a keen interest in the Senate landscape, raising money for a highly touted challenger, helping clear the primary field for an endangered senator and playfully engaging in an intraparty contest.

[Ryan says he’ll retire, leaving big election-year GOP vacuum]

And marquee Republican challengers are stepping up to run for the Senate, even as House GOP retirements pile up. The latest blue-chip recruit is Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to launch his challenge to Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday.

“Our donors will often say we need to do everything we can to hold onto the Senate, because there’s a chance we may not be able to hold the House,” said Steven Law, a former McConnell chief of staff who runs a super PAC called the Senate Leadership Fund.

While some Republicans believe they can expand their 51-49 Senate advantage, simply holding the slim majority has grown increasingly more complicated. Hard-right Republicans running in Arizona and Mississippi and a competitive open race in Tennessee could lead to Democratic gains. An even better pickup opportunity exists for Democrats in Nevada.

But on the whole, the Democratic path to the Senate majority is more daunting: They are defending 26 seats to just nine for the Republicans. Trump won in 10 of the states where Democrats are playing defense. They include North Dakota, West Virginia, Indiana and Missouri — all states he won by 19 points or more.

In the House, Republicans have built their ranks on locking down seats in suburban and exurban districts. But in these areas, Democratic turnout has been high in elections over the past year, fueled by anger with Trump. If Democrats can gain 23 House seats, they will clinch the majority.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, put the chances of holding the House majority at “50-50.” The veteran party strategist warned that “the environment could easily continue to deteriorate,” and said he didn’t begrudge McConnell for pitching his case for the Senate.

“If I had to bet right now, I’d say we lose the House,” said Dan Eberhart, a wealthy oil industry executive and major GOP fundraiser raising cash for several Senate contenders. At the same time, Eberhart predicted a Republican gain of three or four seats in the Senate. He said it is “galactically important” to hold the upper chamber of Congress so that Republicans can confirm nominations from the White House.

McConnell sounded similar notes Tuesday when he likened the electoral headwinds to a “Category 3, 4 or 5” storm. Republicans need to keep control of the Senate because “even if we were to lose the House and be stymied legislatively, we could still approve appointments, which is a huge part of what we do,” he told a local editorial board.

A Republican close to the Senate leader said McConnell was laying the foundation for an argument that could appeal to right-leaning voters: A GOP Senate will confirm conservative judges. The Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, predicted that more reminders about the Senate confirming Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court last year will show up in the campaign.

And if the speculation that Justice Anthony Kennedy might retire this summer becomes reality, Republicans would use that as a rallying cry for keeping the Senate.

[Trumpian right says ‘good riddance’ after ‘globalist’ Paul Ryan an...

Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman, said the House “may be further gone than people like to admit publicly.” While many in the party worry about a Democratic House and Senate launching an endless string of hearings and investigations into Trump, Steele said he has a different concern — that Democrats will work with the president to pass legislation that Republicans won’t like.

“Trump will cut whatever deal he can get a vote on,” he said. The president, he argued, “is an opportunist.”

After backing embattled Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s special election last year, only to see him lose, Trump has put greater effort into helping more mainstream Senate contenders.

He ended a fierce Republican primary in Nevada by coaxing challenger Danny Tarkanian to abandon his bid against Sen. Dean Heller and run for the House. He raised money for state Attorney General Josh Hawley in Missouri. And he helped recruit Scott to run in Florida and Rep. Kevin Cramer to mount a campaign in North Dakota.

On Thursday, Trump visited West Virginia for a roundtable on tax reform. At the end of his event, he conducted an informal audience poll of two Republican candidates for Senate who were seated to his left and right: Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

“It was fairly close,” the president remarked, seeming to enjoy the political spectacle. Snubbed was a third GOP candidate, former coal executive Don Blankenship, who served a one-year prison sentence for conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards after an accident killed 29 miners. Republicans fear a Blankenship primary win could cost them a shot at the seat.

Vice President Mike Pence has also pitched in to help Senate Republicans. He will hit the road in the coming days to raise money for Heller, who is considered the most vulnerable Republican senator up this year.

Pence, who has also been campaigning on behalf of House and gubernatorial candidates, is expected to travel to his home state of Indiana once the GOP nominee is chosen in the May 8 primary, a White House official said.

Against Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, Pence plans to level the same, “Joe voted no” line of attack he used against Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, earlier this year when he hammered Manchin for opposing the sweeping Republican tax law, the official said.

But a trio of seats Democrats are trying to flip from Republican control could hinder the GOP effort to save the Senate majority. In each, the White House is confronting difficult decisions.

There is growing concern among Republicans about Arizona. There, Rep. Martha McSally is in a three-way primary against former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former state Sen. Kelli Ward, each of whom is trying to run to McSally’s right. Some Republicans have wondered whether the White House should intervene and hasten a showdown between McSally and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic recruit who is seen by Republicans as a real threat to win in November.

In Mississippi, party leaders want to stop hard-right state Sen. Chris McDaniel in a special election. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Republican state Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to fill retired Republican Thad Cochran’s seat and run in the special election. Trump and McConnell wanted Bryant to run. Neither has endorsed Hyde-Smith yet.

Democrat Mike Espy announced his candidacy last Friday, giving the party a solid candidate for a Southern seat. The Mississippi race has no partisan primaries before the Nov. 6 election. Instead, all the candidates will appear on one ballot, and GOP leaders worry about McDaniel advancing to a runoff against a Democrat.

In Tennessee, White House political aides worked to keep Republican Sen. Bob Corker from reversing course and running for reelection. Now, they are hoping that Rep. Marsha Blackburn can outperform public polls showing her losing to former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen.

Still, keeping the House is the steeper climb for the GOP. And each day, it gets even tougher. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved 13 House races toward the Democrats in its rating system last Friday.

The divergent House and the Senate outlooks have caused a kind of cognitive dissonance for Republicans. When they describe the overall mood of the party, some send mixed signals.

“It’s like fear, excitement all combined into one,” said Frank VanderSloot, a top conservative donor and the chief executive of an Idaho nutritional-supplement company.

Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.  https://bangordailynews.com/2018/04/12/national-politics/gop-increa...

Paul Ryan needs to retire to put distance between Donald Trump and himself because he wants to be President of the United States in the near future.  If he remains in office while Trump is president, then he will be tainted by Trump's vulgar behavior and encumbrances with the law, as well as the Russian scandals.  He may not challenge Trump in 2020 because it’s too close.  Ryan sees himself as Ayn Rand's hero John Galt, unbound by ethics--thereby views his every political move through self-serving Objectivism.  He has vowed allegiance to Rand's philosophy: "I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my values systems are, and what my beliefs are."

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Comment by mary gravitt on April 17, 2018 at 1:07pm

Paul Ryan must put distance between himself and Donald Trump if he wishes to fulfill his dream of becoming President of the United States.  Don't be fooled.  He is a Satanist and a lover of Ayn Rand philosophy of every man, woman, and child for him or herself.  Give up Social Security at your peril.  You may be young and beautiful today, but age creeps up on you as does disability.  Ryan and his family, like Ayn Rand herself, collected Social Security at his father's death.  He got over and now wants the rest of US to suffer.

Comment by Maui Surfer on April 17, 2018 at 2:28pm

Ryan is a gibbering idiot, one of the best examples of how the Repub will put mediocre, at best, individuals into positions of importance. The credulous and selfish imbeciles who buy into objective-ism and libertarian-ism are merely leeches who want to use our bought and paid for, and, hopefully, maintained, infrastructure for their own gratification and material gain without contributing or sharing, yet are always first in line for government safety nets in the event of tragedies. This is a damn fool, perhaps the worst Speaker ever, and a supposed wunderkind math genius yet who never created a spreadsheet that reconciled. A spoiled freak who worships a PTSD infected victim of the Russian Revolution whose pain and suffering from the theft of her family business to collectivism turned her into an absolute tyrant herself. Imagine, she forced Greenspan and the other doofus followers to smoke cigarettes at their "meetings" --- it was mandatory! Never mind the weird sex, that could be anybody, this witch has left a mark, an ugly stain, on the world, and America especially, and Ryan, he is merely a stain on someone's undergarments that won't come out without a lot of bleach.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 17, 2018 at 2:48pm

One thing I don’t know about Randism is how she felt about inherited wealth. Her novels were all about the self-made, not the spoiled brats who look down on the rest of the world, people who, as the expression goes, were born on third base and think they hit a triple. 

Comment by Maui Surfer on April 17, 2018 at 3:32pm

What about those, (Ryan) who marry into wealth? Should they be considered shrewd, lucky or just plain devious?

Comment by koshersalaami on April 17, 2018 at 3:39pm

They’re not self-made either, but I have no idea what her opinion is on any of them. 

Comment by alsoknownas on April 17, 2018 at 3:48pm

As long as one's goal is to be devoid of ethics, self serving and unhampered by societal restrictions, I believe she would have been in favor of their lot in life.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 17, 2018 at 3:49pm

That’s pretty close to her shtick.

Comment by Maui Surfer on April 17, 2018 at 4:46pm

AKA- you forgot to also be a 3 pack a day chain smoker ... what a role model!

Comment by Maui Surfer on April 17, 2018 at 4:49pm

BTW, back in the 60s I tried, unsuccessfully, to sludge through Atlas and the rest, never finished any of them, never got close and tried on the whole mess, each time thinking one must be better than the other pieces of trash ... what a pile of fire-starter paper, what a bunch of absolute boring self centered Post Traumatic gar-baaaage.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on April 17, 2018 at 5:52pm

a PTSD infected victim...

self centered Post Traumatic gar-baaaage...

Though obviously the GUYS who were all pompously self-righteous over people "Laughing at Disabilities" have no issues with you insulting the fuck out of people who suffer from PTSD, by using their illness as a cudgel to whack at Ayn Rand and thereby Paul Ryan, I sure do.  

Also, people who suffer from PTSD are NOT "infected" and they usually are the exact opposite of "self-centered" (which implies a sense of inflated self-worth...  you know...  sort of like yours...).  

So kindly shove your fake "diagnosis" up your fake surfer's ass, mm'kay?

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