The nightmare scenario for the next Republican speaker isn't losing the midterms -- it's barely winning them

  • Paul Ryan is retiring, and a lot of the analysis of his move will focus on whether it’s because Republicans are doomed to lose their House majority.
  • But for the next Republican leader, the alternative – just barely keeping the majority – could be even worse.

You’re going to see a lot of analysis that says Paul Ryan is retiring from the House of Representatives because he believes Republicans are doomed to lose the majority.

I don’t think that’s quite right.

Granted, Republicans are very likely to lose the House majority. But the alternative prospect is arguably even more dire for a Republican who would lead this conference: They could retain their majority, but with a much-reduced margin.

Remember, the reason House Speaker has become the worst job in Washington is the complete impossibility of managing the Republican conference. Many of these members don’t take direction and have shown a willingness to drag leadership around by its tail, most notably by forcing a government shutdown on John Boehner in 2013.

When the Republican majority is large, there is at least some room to work: You can lose 20 members of your own caucus and still be able to pass laws with no Democratic support. But if Republicans come out of the 2018 election with 221 seats in a body where 218 is a majority, whoever is speaker is going to need to get virtually every Republican to agree to each aspect of his or her agenda.

That job is going to suck. Ryan barely wanted to be speaker to begin with – why would he want that headache?

So, yes, I’m sure Ryan was afraid his party was going to lose the majority in November. But he may have been even more afraid that they would hold onto it.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.