Paul Ryan likely faces the biggest challenge of anyone in Washington, come January.
The speaker of the House faces a probable Hillary Clinton presidency, more Democrats in the House, and a divided House GOP caucus angry as a bear after stinging defeats in the White House and within its own conference.
Ryan's situation after Nov. 8 is a lose-lose proposition, said Mark Rozell, political science professor at George Mason University.
"Assuming Clinton wins and the Democrats strengthen their numbers in the House, Ryan will be faced with the choice of working cooperatively with the Clinton White House and congressional Democrats to get things done, or to lead an obstructionist smaller GOP majority against the president," he said.
Doing the former could sink his stature with the conservative wing of the party and destroy any aspiration he may have to be nominated for president in 2020. Doing the latter will likely destroy his reputation with the broader public, which increasingly is frustrated with gridlock and obstructionist tactics in Washington.
"If it were any other person with any other temperament or set of values, it would be their undoing," said Charlie Gerow, a GOP media consultant who was a chief strategist for Carly Fiorina’s presidential campaign.
"But Ryan has proved he is both a steel-willed and pragmatic Speaker whose goal has been to unify both the House and his party," Gerow said.
The worst-case scenario that the Wisconsin lawmaker faces is if Trump loses and the GOP loses House seats, said Rozell.
"The losers are going to be the more moderate members in competitive districts," Rozell said. "Those who hold their seats will be the most conservative members in one-party districts.
"Now, imagine Ryan trying to put together coalitions of support for legislation that include whatever number of members of his own party he can hold together, along with some congressional Democrats."
And his own party members may vilify him if he tries to work cooperatively with a Clinton White House.
Ryan may have been reluctant to occupy the Speaker's chair last year for a number of personal reasons, "but he has done a remarkable job since he took over," said Gerow.
"He has reigned in, to the extent that you can, those members always looking to stir up trouble just for the sake of stirring up trouble and held his own during this mess of a presidential election."
Despite all of the problems with Trump and the Freedom Caucus members of the party, who seem to spend most of their time being mad for the sake of being mad, Ryan has continued to raise money for them and stuck to positive efforts to restore free enterprise and tacke the country’s economic and other problems.
He may end up holding what becomes the worst job in Washington next January — but, if anyone has proven they have the composure and leadership needed to essentially herd cats and get important policies passed through Congress, it is Ryan, according to Gerow.
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