Republican Party

Politics is Not Governing: Storytelling in Trump’s America


Politics is not governing. A simple and fairly obvious statement. One which has been made ad nauseam in the days following the catastrophic failure of the American Health Care Act. A statement which is increasingly apparent to the Republican Party.

Factions, making outlandish statements for the sole purpose of media attention, and obstructionist actions are fine when you are the opposition party.  These actions made the Republican Party extremely successful under President Obama.

The Republican Party is not the opposition party. They are the majority party. They govern a unified government.

Well, “govern”.

This inability to effectively govern has highlighted an important issue for the Trump administration and the GOP. Seemingly lost in the stories about the failure of the American Health Care Act and how that legislation came to its demise is attention to the stories themselves.

The problem is not simply the articles about the GOP’s failure to pass President Trump’s first piece of major legislation. The problem is not journalists writing that Republicans have no idea how to govern and that as a consequence Paul Ryan needs to resign.

Taken in the moment these are articles about a single failure. A single failure is easily forgotten given it is followed by success. Or had been proceeded by success. A single failure can be the anomaly. When failure becomes, or is, the narrative, however, that is when a single failure is the beacon of a much larger problem.

President Trump and the Republican Party have a big problem.

Being the minority party means obstructionism and attention-seeking via whatever means necessary. Campaigning is rhetoric, promises and exploitative bushwhacking. In a word, politics. In two words, not governing.

In fact, this is essentially the opposite of governing. Consider Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and subsequent victory.

Make ridiculous statements which are readily proved demonstrably false. Draw attention to yourself by whatever means necessary. Establish strength when in public. Find your specific audience and speak to that audience at every opportunity in order to invigorate those supporters and strengthen their opinion of you.

This strategy won Donald Trump the election. But he did so without the popular vote. Without winning over new votersWithout winning over his own party.

A popular loss. A narrow Electoral College victory. Bipartisan apprehension regarding his legislative agenda. This strategy did not win Donald Trump a political mandate.

And the news following November 9th has not been any better.

Failed nomineesPotential ties to foreign governmentsProven ties to foreign governments. Alienating foreign leadersBipartisan condemnation of the President. Historically low approval ratings. A monumental defeat on President Trump’s first piece of major legislation. Doubt regarding the ability of the President to pass his next piece of major legislation. Or really any major legislation.

This succession of stories weaves a tale about President Trump and about the Republican Party. It’s a narrative. It’s a narrative of failure.

Not a single failure. Not successive failures. Simply failure.

When the narrative is failure, the narrative supposes future failure. And when future failure is supposed there is no hope for governing. Because governing requires support. Support requires the prospect of success. The prospect of success is nullified by the expectation of failure.

To illustrate this point a bit here is selection of recent media regarding the Trump administration, and the Republican Party. Apropos to President Trump, the selection is composed of tweets.

In summary, conservative news outlets/commentators/politicians criticizing the Republican Party generally, Paul Ryan specifically, and the legislation promoted by President Trump and GOP leadership. And also the President calling out his own party.

It’s a narrative. Politics instead of governing. Politics over governing.

Politics is not governing.

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Repeal and Replace: The American Health Care Act isn’t about Healthcare


It seems very easy to ridicule the American Health Care Act and Republican efforts to promote their plan which would replace the Affordable Care Act.

Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget told Mark Halperin on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that insurance coverage isn’t “the end goal” of healthcare reformIt needs be. Vice President Mike Pence told an audience in Louisville, Kentucky that healthcare in their state was made worse by ObamacareIt wasn’t.

In perhaps the epitome of Obamacare criticism, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan declared that Obamacare was in a “death spiral” because it forced healthy people to pay for sick people. A statement for which there are almost too many things wrong to properly elucidate.

Critiques of these statements, as well as others, have been swift, and harsh. And many would say such disapproving judgments are deserved. Except here’s the thing…the Republican effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act has nothing to do with healthcare.

From the very beginning the American public liked Obamacare. They just didn’t know it due to the massive, years-long public relations campaign the GOP waged against the healthcare plan. Once talks of a Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act became concrete, it became more popular than ever. People began to understand what the Act was and did for them. They didn’t want their healthcare taken away.

And it wouldn’t be according to Donald Trump.  The President declared “healthcare for everybody”. Furthermore, he said the government was going to pay for it.

It was quickly apparent the second statement wasn’t true. The American Health Care Act will provide tax credits, only those credits most benefit those who can already afford healthcare.

As to the President’s first statement, there was initial skepticism. Skepticism which was justified and seemingly solidified when the Congressional Budget Office’s official report on the American Health Care Act said it would increase the number of uninsured people by 24 million by 2026. In other words, according to the CBO the Republican healthcare plan will increase the number of uninsured Americans by 86 percent. It would also increase premiums in the short-term.

But remember, it isn’t about coverage. Additionally, we were already told that the CBO analysis would be wrong and meaningless.

Under Obamacare insurance premiums were skyrocketing. Quality of healthcare was plummeting. It caused the national debt to go through the roof. It destroyed jobs. It was immoral. And the CBO projections were completely wrong.

At least so argued conservatives and the Republican Party. Never mind that none of those things are true.

It isn’t about healthcare.

In fact, the Affordable Care Act took the form it did because of numerous comprises during the legislative process, compromises which incorporated many Republican ideas. The Affordable Care Act was designed a lot like a Republican comprehensive healthcare plan.

The Democrats’ original vision of comprehensive health insurance was tied to Social Security and Medicare, largely funded via payroll taxes. It would most likely have been cheaper, simpler, and more popular.

This is to say that many of the problems of Obamacare against which Republicans rail were created, or at least exacerbated, by political comprises made to incorporate Republican ideas.

There were issues with the Affordable Care Act. Even President Obama admits problems with the legislation. But the idea of revising or replacing is improvement.

To recap, many of the criticisms leveled against the Affordable Care Act by conservatives and the Republican Party are either largely the result of Republican ideas about comprehensive healthcare, fabricated by the Republican Party, or the result of creative truth-telling.

The Affordable Care Act was healthcare. “Obamacare” was politics.

Following the release of the Congressional Budget Office’s report Paul Ryan issued a statement in response:

This report confirms that the American Health Care Act will lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care. CBO also finds that this legislation will provide massive tax relief, dramatically reduce the deficit and make the most fundamental entitlement reform in more than a generation.

Under Obamacare, we have seen how government-mandated coverage does not equal access to care, and now the law is collapsing. Our plan is not about forcing people to buy expensive, one-size-fits-all coverage. It is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford. When people have more choices, costs go down. That’s what this report shows.

This is all true, except for the “all” part. And the “true” part.

The CBO does project the Republican bill would reduce the federal debt by $337 billion over the next decade. Part of the bill is eliminating tax increases made under Obamacare. And insurance premiums are projected to decrease after 2020.

Here’s the problem: the American Health Care Act is projected to cost the federal government as much as $600 billion in revenue over the same period. Those tax breaks mainly benefit the wealthy. For the poor and the elderly the cost of healthcare will increase. Especially as the initial increase in premiums and Medicaid cuts will cause many Americans to lose their insurance so when/if they attempt to pick up insurance in the future the continuous coverage premium will kick in, making it even more costly.

Even if the American Health Care Act does theoretically improve healthcare access and choices, if people can’t pay for those choices and that access, there is no healthcare.

But the American Health Care Act isn’t healthcare. The American Health Care Act is politics.

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The Republican Party unveils a Healthcare Plan: Or, Politics is not Governing


Did you know the Affordable Care Act and “Obamacare” are one and the same? If answering in the affirmative, you can count yourself in the 67 percent of the country who gave a similar response. One-third of Americans do not understand “Obamacare” is the Affordable Care Act.

The Republican Party did a really good job. Republicans spent years lambasting the Affordable Care Act. They made up parts of the plan to make it seem less viable. Told supporters it was too expensive and provided poor healthcare.

Republicans invented “Obamacare”. They attempted for years to destroy the plan via repeal, blocking funding, court challenges, even shutting down the government.

Finally, the Republican Party got their chance. On the campaign trail Donald Trump said he would repeal Obamacare his first day in office. Following his victory he declared he would convene a special session of Congress in order to “repeal and replace” the healthcare bill.

That did not come to pass, but the political will of President Trump and the Republican Party to destroy the Affordable Care Act did not diminish. Even as it became more popular than ever. Even as the party struggled to come up with an alternative.

The Republican Party had years to develop their own healthcare system, yet seemingly spent that time coming up with new ways to combat Obamacare rather than legislating. The GOP had a very strong political response to the Affordable Care Act, but where was the alternative?

It is here. And it’s not good. As in, nobody likes it. Sparring details of the plan, just let these headlines guide you through the discontent:

  • Reuters: “Conservatives rebel against Trump-backed Republican healthcare plan”
  • New York Times: “G.O.P. Health Bill Faces Revolt from Conservative Forces”
  • Slate: “The Republican Health Care Plan Isn’t Good for Much, Except Cutting Rich Folks’ Taxes”
  • Mother Jones: “Republicans Unveil Their Health Care Plan. It’s a Bloodbath”
  • BBC: “A bumpy 24 hours for Trump-backed health bill”
  • Politico: “Trump moves to assure conservatives on Obamacare replacement plan”
  • Washington Post: “House GOP proposal to replace Obamacare sparks broad backlash”
  • Vox: “The GOP health bill doesn’t know what problem it’s trying to solve”
  • The Atlantic: “The GOP’s Plan Is Basically a $600 Billion Tax Cut for Rich Americans”
  • National Review: “Obamacare Replacement: Republican Plan is Disappointing”
  • The Hill: “Hospitals come out against GOP healthcare bill”
  • Fox News: “Conservatives balk at ObamaCare replacement bill”
  • Breitbart: “Conservatives: Paul Ryan’s Healthcare Plan Replaces Obamacare with Obamacare-lite”

As many news outlets have described, the Republican bill isn’t all that different from the plan which they have railed against. It is too similar and potentially too expensive for many conservatives. The changes the new bill does make would cut coverage for lower-income families and rolls back many health coverage gains made under the Affordable Care Act.

In other words, this new healthcare bill fails to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act which angers many conservative Republicans, yet makes just enough changes to anger Democrats and some moderate Republicans.

The question which comes to mind is, exactly for whom is this healthcare bill? Another question might be, what did the Republican Party do the past seven years?

Politics is not governing. And as the headlines highlight, this isn’t either.

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Demographics in the 2016 Presidential Election and Moving Forward: In Charts and Graphs


Presidential Election Change, 2012-2016

One of the most striking aspects of the 2016 presidential election was the shifting demographics. The vast majority of predictions and forecasts prior to November 8th were wrong, partially because the national public opinion polls and algorithms utilized to make such predictions and forecasts rely “representative” samples of the American electorate. Opinion polls attempt to adequately represent the demographics of the United States in order to accurately represent the political opinions of the United States at large via samples of only 800-1,100 people. The data from these polls are then used to make forecasts of election results. However, this is not the only data utilized in these forecasts. At least some forecasting models use historical data, state polls, and attempt to model uncertainty in their algorithms. This is intended to give a more complete picture of the election than the opinion polls, which essentially only give data for that moment the poll was conducted. While valuable, this information is incomplete. By using all of these different data sources a more complete picture emerges.

Except in 2016. Each of these data sources failed to provide an accurate picture of the election outcome because the demographics shifted. To be more precise, how the demographics voted shifted. The map above from the New York Times shows the partisan shift in margin across the country from the 2012 presidential to the 2016 presidential election. As can be seen, the majority of America experienced some shifting of the margins. While this is to be expected (vote totals aren’t going to stay exactly the same) in how many places and by how much the margins shifted is striking. It is a demonstration that partisan polarization is increasing in the American public. This fact is further demonstrated when examining the presidential election results by county.

Image result for 2016 presidential election results

Upon first look what is perhaps most striking, though not necessarily surprising, is the stark contrasts between the “colors” of various parts of the country. Most of America is red (Republican) while the areas surrounding urban areas are blue (Democratic). The national vote is close because of the population density differences between the urban areas which traditionally vote Democrat and more rural areas which traditionally vote Republican. If votes were based on square footage the Republican Party would win in a landslide. This difference is highlighted again by this New York Times map showing the size of lead by county. Circle size is proportional to the amount that county’s leading candidate is ahead.

Image result for 2016 presidential election results by size of lead

However, as mentioned, this is traditional voting behavior. What was different in 2016 was that white voters voted as a faction and overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. This voting behavior is nothing new and not unexpected of minority voters who vote Democrat in vast majorities, but is relatively uncommon of white voters. Furthermore, not only did whites vote as a faction, they turned out. This turnout is the key. Donald Trump won the white vote by virtually the same margin as Mitt Romney in 2012, but there were more of these voters in 2016. Exit poll data from CNN and changes in voter turnout from 2012 to 2016 provided by demonstrate these changes.

Now compare these to the election results by county. Areas of America that are mainly white voted Republican. Areas of America that voted Republican and are mainly white increased their turnout from 2012 while areas which voted Democrat had a slighter increase in voting, if not decreases. Thereby, Donald Trump won the election by overwhelming winning the white vote and convincing those white voters to turn out on Election Day. Conversely, while Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly won the minority vote (to a greater degree than Trump won the white vote), she lost vote margins from President Obama in 2012, and these groups did not turn out as they had in 2012.

Hillary Clinton lost the demographic battle. She could not maintain minority vote margins and could not entice these voters to show up on November 8th. Donald Trump was able to galvanize the white vote and excite them into showing up to cast their ballots. He was even able to get college-educated white women to vote in his favor, a vote which has historically gone for Democrats. And in the short-term this struggle over demographics will most likely continue.

Winning coalitions are traditionally narrow, but this presidential election redrew those lines. But the margins remain narrow. In the future that may change as the white vote will decrease and minority voters will increase as the demographics of the United States change over time. However, party affiliation of white voters is moving more strongly Republican than party affiliation of whites and minorities is moving Democrat. This chart from The New Yorker highlights these differences.


The past two decades have shown that American public opinion is moving away from the Republican Party. Younger voters are more liberal on traditional GOP issues such as gun rights, abortion and welfare. This was especially considered the case following the 2008 presidential election in which young and minority voters turned out to cast their ballots in record numbers for a black, progressive candidate. However, as the 2016 election demonstrated, not only did millions of voters feel President Obama did not live up to his promise of 2008 but that millions of others also feel that he did not go far enough in legislating those progressive ideals. And Hillary Clinton failed to provide additional or alternative reasons for their vote while Donald Trump was able.

Now the question becomes, can Donald Trump continue to galvanize and excite his faction of voters? That remains to be seen. If he is able, 2020 will most likely look much like 2016. If he is not to fulfill his promises of systemic change the demographic battle for American voters will most likely begin anew in 2020.

Final Election Post-Mortems: A Trump Victory Does Not Fix the Republican Party

Image result for trump pence ryan

Political commentators, pundits and much of the national news media was prepared to declare the death of the Republican Party. As soon as Donald Trump officially lost on November 8th, the Republican Party as previously constituted would cease to exist. Some had prematurely pronounced this demise. Except Donald Trump won the election. Perhaps a Republican Party which had been ailing long before Trump’s nomination had in fact been saved by Trump’s victory. Despite the criticism which followed Trump throughout his campaign, regarding his rhetoric, his actions, his strategy, his temperament, his lack of experience, Donald Trump won and did so by galvanizing the American public. All of those aspects criticized seemingly worked to his advantage and worked out in his favor.

He won. Perhaps Donald Trump is the way forward. Donald Trump is the immediate present of the Republican Party, maybe he can be the long-term solution as well. But many of the fissures within the GOP which were highlighted during the presidential campaign have not simply gone away now that Trump has won. There still needs to be healing within the GOP. Conciliation from Donald Trump and from his detractors within his party remains necessary, or else four years time will simply exacerbate those cracks. Via Fortune:

“Along with many other political scientists and prognosticators, results have proven me wrong several times in this electoral cycle. But political scientist Stephen Skowronek’s theory of the presidency suggests that presidential leadership goes in cycles. Several signs indicate that, in spite of impressive victories last week, Republicans could be on the verge of being a repudiated political minority for the next generation. Trump might join presidents like Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover, “disjunctive” presidents who sometimes win promising electoral victories, but soon break a cycle in which their party was dominant.

“Several commentators are writing that Trump has redefined politics, reversing traditional Republican policies and flipping many of the districts that President Obama won. But in several ways, he fits the pattern of disjunctive presidents at the end of the generation of one party’s dominance. One sign of desperation is appealing so forcefully outside of a party’s base, indicating strategic savvy for minority parties but weakness for a party that is supposedly dominant. Dwindling support for Ronald Reagan’s traditional agenda forced Republicans to make new accommodations, for example. Another sign of desperation is nominating a candidate with tenuous connections to a party. Like Trump, other disjunctive presidents spent much of their career unaffiliated with the party that nominated them (think John Quincy Adams and Hoover). A robust Reagan regime would have nominated someone more obviously committed to its party inheritance.

“A final sign of desperation is focus on technique over substantive reform, since efficiency is one of the few platforms everyone can agree on. Disjunctive presidents accept what policies are already in place but promise to run them better. While some of Trump’s promises are too odd to classify, much of his campaign boiled down to “I can do it better than you.” Trump claims to support free trade, but negotiate better trade deals than his predecessors. Although opposed to Obamacare, he insisted on an unspecified form of universal health care coverage during the primary debates. Where Hoover and Carter relied on their engineering expertise, Trump advertises his business background.

“Disjunctive presidents pave the way for “reconstructive” presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan, whose parties enjoyed a long period of dominance. Time and Newsweek have compared Obama to Roosevelt and Reagan, but like Wilson, Obama turned out to be a Democrat in Republican times. For both Obama and Wilson, many of their supporters went back to their usual ways in the next election cycle. Where reconstructive presidents permanently augment their parties, opposition presidents only temporarily win over unreliable constituencies. Trump flipped districts that Obama won in Wisconsin, but many of those same districts had voted for Bush in 2004. Democrats have controlled Congress and the White House more often than they did before Wilson, but firm conservative opposition keeps bouncing back, even after being blamed for the Great Recession.

“Disjunctive presidents like Hoover and Carter started off with impressive victories. While Carter’s election was close, Hoover won 40 states and 58% of the vote. Both won overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. Yet, both parties soon lost control not only over the levers of government for the better part of a generation, but the dominant political discourse…Even before hard times confronted the country, these presidents were caught between a party establishment that insisted on its traditional agenda and changing times that called for innovation…Disjunctive presidents wrestle with how to honor old party commitments in changing times, aggravating party cleavages to a point of collapse and rewarding the next nominee from another party.

“Maybe Trump will be different than earlier disjunctive presidents. After all, he already bypassed party elites with media appeals to an army of unorganized voters that nominated him over establishment figures. While Trump’s recruitment of working class whites was impressive, he will have a difficult time keeping such voters happy while also maintaining the party base most presidents need.”

We’re All Going to Die: Election Day

Image result for clinton trump

The 2016 presidential election has been unusually contentious and has borne widespread dissatisfaction in the American electorate. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the most disliked presidential nominees on record. For millions of voters their decision has come down to which nominee represents the “lesser of two evils”. Amongst the increasingly polarized American public many of these ideologically-separated citizens cannot agree on basic facts and also disagree on the fundamental tenets of a democracy. Political preferences by demographics show an increasingly divided America, suggesting this presidential election will be decided along gender and racial lines.

While this election season has highlighted the vast differences between the Democratic and Republican parties, it has also revealed divisions within these parties. The Republican Party and to a lesser extent the Democratic Party have become more ideologically dispersed over time. An increase in the number of extreme left-wing Democrats and ultra-conservative Republicans have created cracks in both parties. This may be seen in the popularity of Bernie Sanders and the nomination of Donald Trump. These crack seem especially evident in the Republican Party.

The Republican Party has seemingly been torn apart by Trump’s nomination. While Donald Trump has his ardent supporters within the GOP, many Republicans are tepid at best about his candidacy. Many have begrudgingly endorsed and voted for him while others have completely disavowed Trump and are voting for Hillary Clinton. Including numerous Republican Party leaders. Many political pundits and commentators are forecasting a GOP civil war following the election, no matter the outcome. With some predicting that the Republican Party as currently constituted will cease to exist and instead split into at least two distinct political parties.

And Election Day is not the end.

Seemingly, no matter the outcome of this presidential election the American public will be faced with an unpopular president, splintered political parties, an unproductive national government, and overall feelings of dissatisfaction with their political institutions.

Have a nice day. And remember to vote.

After the Election: The Fight for Congress

Image result for paul ryan

The nomination of Donald Trump to head the Republican Party resulted from a schism in the GOP. The course of the 2016 presidential election has only served to highlight these cracks. Trump has taken issue positions and made comments with which many within the Republican Party not only disagree but find offensive. Numerous notable Republicans have refused to endorse Donald Trump, even if they still plan to cast their vote for him. Although some have declared they will vote for Hillary Clinton. Some analysts have gone so far as to declare the end of the 2016 election season as the beginning of a GOP civil war. And others have predicted that the Republican Party as currently constituted will cease to exist, instead splitting into at least two distinct political parties.

The most likely scene of this GOP battle is Congress and the House of Representatives. Polarization has not only been increasing between parties but also within parties. While Republicans are united against Democrats, they do not always work in solidarity. The ideological gap between the more moderate Republicans in the House of Representatives and the most conservative wing of the GOP in the House was the highest ever for the modern Republican Party. Many consider the resignation of John Boehner, former Speaker of the House, to have been motivated by a group of dissident, highly conservative Republicans, the Freedom Caucus, who had threatened a no-confidence vote in his speakership.


Current Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, may have a similar future. Although Ryan has made clear he plans to run for speaker, there are those who wish he wouldn’t. Ryan has been under fire for his criticism of Donald Trump, refusing to defend Trump in the wake of his lewd recording, turning his focus to House races instead of campaigning for Trump, and saying he would work with Hillary Clinton. Conversely, Ryan maintained his endorsement of Trump and voted for Trump. Yet this may not be enough for him to garner enough confidence within his own party to win the speaker race. And chatter has grown that instead of facing an unwinnable race, Paul Ryan will instead step down.

Now The Hill has provided more details and greater context on this developing story:

“But even some Ryan allies are conceding that the Speaker now finds himself in an untenable position after just a year on the job.

“It’s not just the usual Freedom Caucus members who are pushing for change at the top; some more mainstream Republicans from safe GOP districts could pull their support over Ryan’s handling of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, lawmakers said.

“The brash New York real estate mogul is enormously popular in many of these districts, but Ryan stopped actively supporting Trump after a recording surfaced of him talking in 2005 about groping and kissing women.

“The lawmaker noted that if the GOP majority shrinks, Ryan could lose next year’s floor vote to remain Speaker with a relatively small number of GOP defections…

“If Trump loses narrowly to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he and his die-hard loyalists will almost certainly try to pin some of the blame on Ryan.

‘“Those who talk to Paul say he is all in to stay Speaker…But if you talk to members from the South, many will struggle to vote for him — even though they like him — because their constituents are furious”‘ over his treatment of Trump…

“GOP sources said Ryan helped himself this week when he announced that he cast an early ballot for Trump.

“But many Republicans are still fuming over a House GOP conference call last month during which Ryan told his colleagues he could no longer defend or campaign with Trump after news outlets published the recording of his lewd comments.

“Trump already took to Twitter to call Ryan a disloyal, “weak and ineffective” leader. On Thursday, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pencerepeatedly declined to say whether he thought his close friend, Ryan, deserved another term as Speaker…

“A Freedom Caucus member predicted that there is “a 25 percent chance Ryan is Speaker in the 115th Congress.”

‘”His unfavorability among Republicans is around 68 percent,”‘ the Freedom Caucus member said of Ryan. ‘”If Hillary wins, he will surely take a good share of the blame among Trump supporters.”‘

In other words, Paul Ryan is under fire for exercising rationality and common sense in his criticism of Donald Trump. Even though Ryan still endorsed Trump. And voted for him. And has been working to secure a GOP majority in the House amidst a Trump campaign which has potentially hurt down-ticket Republican races.

That is to say Paul Ryan may be replaced as Speaker of the House due to his efforts to keep the House united.