Former House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday warned that President Donald Trump’s reelection prospects could be in danger next year if he chooses to rely on his personality, rather than focus on policy, to win another four years in the White House.
Speaking at a lecture in Vero Beach, Fla., in some of his first public comments since leaving Congress two months ago, Ryan also bemoaned the political polarization that was a defining characteristic of his tenure as speaker, blaming the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus for derailing attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and blaming technology for deepening the political divide.
Ryan focused heavily on policy in his speech, Treasure Coast Newspapers reported, and urged the president to do the same during his reelection campaign. He told the audience that he believes there are some Democrats who could unseat Trump in 2020, and pushed him to define himself through his policy platform.
“The person who defines that race is going to win the race. If this is about Donald Trump and his personality, he isn’t going to win it,” Ryan said.
The former speaker apparently did not address on Monday the thinly veiled criticisms Trump has lobbed at him since Ryan left office in January, especially over Ryan’s inability to secure funding for the president’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border before Republicans lost the House last November.
Ryan did say that he hopes Congress addresses immigration issues like increased funding for border security. But he also called also for reforms for several visa programs and expressed hope for a solution for so-called “dreamers,” migrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors.
The former speaker cited Republicans’ drawn out repeal and replace efforts in 2017 as one of the biggest mistakes of his tenure, arguing that the negotiation process for a replacement for the Affordable Care Act took too long and that delays led by the Freedom Caucus “eroded public support for it” so that by the time it arrived in the Senate, where it was defeated, “it was hanging on a thread.”
But he also argued that he had many policy successes during his three-year tenure, saying he felt achievements like the GOP tax bill, bipartisan criminal justice reform and opioid response legislation and deregulatory action had been overlooked.
Ryan would have been able to accomplish more, he explained, if not for the Senate’s filibuster rules for major legislation, which the former speaker said prevented him pursuing entitlement reforms.