House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is running for re-election in the midst of serving in his ninth term in Congress. Despite his Republican bona fides and conservative leanings, he is facing an uphill battle in the open primary race. Voters in Wisconsin go to the polls on August 9. Ryan faces a persistent adversary in the race in opponent Paul Nehlen -- a Tea Party favorite. Nehlen has recently gotten plaudits from author and controversialist Ann Coulter, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
 
Today, Trump said to The Washington Post: "I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country," Trump said. "We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I'm just not quite there yet. I'm not quite there yet." Several months ago, Ryan had said much the same thing about Trump, when he claimed he “was not ready” to endorse Trump.
Ryan eventually endorsed Trump after some delays, their relationship has not been close. Ryan doubled down on earlier criticisms of the Republican nominee when he repeated this weekend that he “rejects” any religious test for entering the U.S. -- a definite poke at Trump who has been scored for suggesting that immigrants from Muslim countries should be halted until the U.S. is able to properly vet visa applicants. 
 
Additionally, Ryan defended Khizr Khan -- a Muslim of Pakistani origin who condemned Trump from the stage during the Democratic National Convention and suggested that he was not familiar with the U.S. Constitution. Khizr Khan’s son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, died while defending his troops during a car-bomb attack in Iraq. Even though Trump was quick to pay tribute to Capt. Khan, who he described as a hero, Ryan said "Captain Khan was one such brave example" of Muslims who have "served valiantly in our military and made the ultimate sacrifice."
 
Nehlen has referred to Ryan as "Lyin' Ryan,” which tracks with Trump’s comments about primary opponent Sen. Ted Cruz. He pointed out that it was Khan who had first  "attacked, ridiculed and attempted to humiliate Mr. Trump and his positions on critical national security issues." Nehlen also issued a detailed defense of Trump's exchanges with the Khans. 
"Just because Capt. Khan was a patriotic Muslim-American who loved and fought for his adopted country, that doesn't mean other Muslim-Americans don't hate the United States and wish our people deadly harm," Nehlen wrote.
 
On Twitter, Trump Nehlen for his Twitter post: “Thanks to @pnehlen for your kind words, very much appreciated.”
 
Ann Coulter, who has vocally supported Nehlen, will work two Nehlen rallies on August 6 in Janesville and Kenosha. Former vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has endorsed Nehlen. Palin said that Ryan’s "political career is over but for a miracle because he has so disrespected the will of the people."
 
Nehlen has garnered populist support for his #DumpRyan campaign. He has condemned Ryan for failing to propose a border wall as Trump has proposed. Ryan himself has built a substantial fence around his own property in Wisconsin. Nehlen has called out Ryan for the latter’s stance on immigration, too.  "Don't let one more American child die because Paul Ryan won't secure the border. Your vote on August 9th can save a life," Nehlen said at a rally recently.
 
A Ryan campaign spokesman said that Ryan has never sought Trump’s endorsement. The campaign appears confident of a win on August 9.
 
In a May 27-28 Free Beacon poll, Ryan led by 73 points: 80 to 7 over Nehlen. Polls now show that Ryan's opponent's fortunes have improved dramatically, showing that Nehlen currently leads 46 to 41 with 13 undecided, indicating a massive change in opinion in a short time.
 
Another Republican who is facing an uphill climb is Sen. John McCain of Arizona. The former Navy pilot, who was captured by the North Vietnamese and spent time in a notorious prison, has tangled with Trump in the past and specifically condemned him over the Khan family. Indicating that an endorsement of the senator is unlikely, Trump said today that he has "never been there with John McCain because I've always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets."

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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