Paul Ryan’s primary opponent said he was like “David” going up against “the Leviathan” — a biblical sea monster — one day after the House speaker defeated him in a landslide vote on Tuesday.
But Paul Nehlen, a Wisconsin businessman, does think he came up big against Ryan on a major issue. And he said his next mission will be working to get Republican nominee Donald Trump elected president.
In an interview with Business Insider, Nehlen, who called himself a “nobody,” said he knew he was facing long odds. Ryan edged out Nehlen by a roughly 85% to 15% margin.
“You’re not just running against Paul Ryan, and I knew that going in,” he said. “You’re up against the Chamber of Commerce, and the Koch’s, and Paul Singer, and all of those who want open borders. All of those groups. I knew that going in. So some would say David and Goliath — I was speaking to the Leviathan. This was David and the Leviathan.”
Nehlen said that the issue that “got me into this race” was the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a landmark free trade agreement among the Pacific Rim nations that Ryan recently said had to be renegotiated while meeting with Wisconsin manufacturing workers on Monday.
“I don’t think there’s a high likelihood (of the TPP’s passage) right now because … we don’t have the votes to pass it because people like me have problems with some significant provisions of it that we believe need to get fixed,” Ryan said. “But here’s the point: we do need trade agreements. I know a lot of people say just get rid of trade agreements, don’t do trade agreements, and that’s terrible. That’s a problem for us.”
The insurgent challenger considers that answer to be his major win.
“I got Paul Ryan to reassure everybody that he had a soul,” he said. “I called him a soulless globalist. He had to go on the radio and reassure everybody in Wisconsin’s first district that he had a soul.”
“Stop and think about that,” he continued. “Think about that for a minute. What I said was that he sold his soul. So the definition of selling your soul means you don’t have a soul. Can you imagine if Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic challenger had said anything about her if we would have heard any remark about it? Paul Ryan had to answer about that. Because his votes clearly proved it.”
He took credit for Ryan, who he called the “leader of the world’s globalist movement” having “to answer for his crimes against” the American people.
“I made him do that,” Nehlen said. “A nobody. A nobody.”
Nehlen also said his campaign brought attention to Ryan’s “disdain” for his voters and said it was able “to pull that mask down,” adding that he believes “in four-and-a-half months, we unwound a 20-year career.”
Although polling showed that the House speaker never faced much of a threat from Nehlen, the race was brought to the forefront after Trump praised Nehlen on Twitter for defending him on a presidential campaign controversy.
Trump later said that he was not ready to endorse Ryan in an interview with The Washington Post. The real-estate magnate later relented, endorsing Ryan last Friday.
But Nehlen also received the backing of big names in the conservative sphere of influence, such as author and commentator Ann Coulter and former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. The news site often linked to the “alt-right” movement, Breitbart, provided glowing coverage of Nehlen throughout the primary, often ignoring the polling data that showed his near-certain defeat.
During his Wednesday interview, Nehlen said he hasn’t coordinated with the Trump campaign about future involvement, but said he’s built an “awesome war-fighting machine” that will work “diligently” to help Trump get elected.
“Because if he doesn’t, we will have a third-term of Barack Obama,” he said. “And unfortunately, we will have Paul Ryan there to rubber stamp it, just as he did for Barack Obama.”
“I’m not going to stop fighting,” he continued. “I’m in a position where people look up to me and see that I stood up and I will not sit down and I will not shut up for as long as I’m alive and physically able to take this fight to the establishment. That is my new vocation. This populist America First movement that is occurring right now; any time something starts, there is creative destruction. I didn’t start it, and I can’t stop it, but I can continue to give it attention.”
As the election was winding down, Ryan portrayed his primary opponent as out of line with the broader conservative movement. Speaking to Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes last Friday, Ryan was asked to respond to comments that Nehlen made to a Chicago radio station questioning why the US has “Muslims in the country.”
While calling them “dark, grim,” and “indefensible,” Ryan ripped the alt-right platform that propped up Nehlen’s candidacy, saying that it “isn’t even conservatism.”
“Look, I hate to even give such comments currency by even talking about them,” Ryan said of Nehlen’s remark. “This is not the US Constitution. This is not the US Bill of Rights. Let’s just be really clear about this.”
“This is not Wisconsin conservatism,” he continued. “That kind of dark, grim, indefensible comments are going to be clearly rejected and repudiated on Tuesday. I have a hard time seeing the thinking behind this. Unfortunately, we see some of it these days.”
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