Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan in 2016 faces an uphill battle for his ideas to become law. | Getty

As presidential hopefuls slug it out in a nasty primary, the speaker is trying to build a different identity for House Republicans.


By Jake Sherman
01/10/16 – 03:50 PM EST
Updated: 01/10/16 – 05:30 PM EST

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Paul Ryan talked about the ills of the criminal-justice system. He quizzed GOP presidential hopefuls at a forum here about what they’ve done to help the impoverished and vowed that Republicans, if they put their minds to it, could “make breakthroughs” in the war on poverty.

This is what Ryan wants his Republican Party to look like. But it bears little resemblance to the one on display in the presidential primary, a battle that some senior Republicans say has gotten so coarse that it’s putting their congressional majorities at risk.

So as Ryan tries to reassert the party’s substantive side with a series of policy rollouts in the coming months — a conservative replacement to Obamacare, tax reform, a criminal justice bill — he’s also looking to give the House GOP its own identity. The speaker’s effort could also provide his 246 members a layer of insulation from the mess playing out on the national stage.

With the presidential candidates sparring over whether to bar Muslims from the United States and discussing the merits of spanking children, top House leadership aides say Ryan is trying to give his party something to run on. There’s almost no chance the GOP will lose the House, but significant double-digit losses are possible if the top of the GOP ticket flounders.

In an interview hours after the Kemp Foundation poverty summit held in Columbia with several 2016 contenders over the weekend, Ryan told Politico he wants the Republican Party to be “an agenda party, a solutions party, an ideas party, so that we make our case, not based on personality, but based on ideas to the country. Because that’s the kind of election we want to win.

“I want our party to be the party of opportunity, upward mobility and the party with better ideas for fighting poverty,” he continued. And “since I want our party to be that, it goes without saying I want the House Republicans to do that, as well.”

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