Ryan failed to distance himself enough from Trump's barrage of racist, ignorant and belligerent public statements to assuage Democrats' misgivings in Congress, while also failing to align himself enough with the president to secure support from more radical Republicans.
The announcement caught others by surprise, and instilled fear among Republicans who were expecting Ryan to campaign with lawmakers across the country in the coming months. Trumpism is ascendant in Washington, but is a permanent Republican shift away from conservative orthodoxy and the establishment underway - or is the party makeover temporary?
Between the obstinance of the knuckle-draggers in the so-called Freedom Caucus and the unpredictable, freaky world of President Trump, it is easy to confuse Ryan as part of the problem. A leadership contest, most likely featuring Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, will soon ensue unless the latter decides to defer to the former's seniority.
Equally important might be who the party chooses as its new leader in the House.
Dent is among the ranks of retiring Republicans, and that status has led him to become much more blunt than many of his colleagues about how Trump has scrambled the GOP's identity and electoral prospects. In addition to the historically high number of Republican retirements, numerous other classic signs of a wave election are showing themselves: low approval ratings for the incumbent president, a consistent voter preference for the out-of-power party in polling questions and a growing enthusiasm gap among Democratic and Republican activists.
With that said, there is a lesson to be learned when an attractive, articulate and experienced conservative is elected Speaker of the House, but is limited by powers beyond his control. And though his retirement will change things for Republicans, I don't see the decision as bailing out or jumping ship, as some in the media have gleefully suggested. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district by 5 points in 2012, when Ryan was on the ballot as the vice presidential nominee.
"I'm grateful for the president to give us this chance to actually get this stuff done", Ryan told reporters Wednesday. "It's just another issue that's floating out there, and obviously there's going to be some competition for his successor".
Another factor, Ryan said, was that he has gotten much of what he wanted done.
A top GOP fundraiser, Eric Tanenblatt, said he expects Ryan to remain a force in a tough cycle. "And now they're teenagers in or about to be in high school", Ryan said. David Craig. Longtime Ryan friend Bryan Steil, an attorney and University of Wisconsin Board of Regents member, could throw his hat into the ring. He had almost $2.3 million in the bank at the end of the first quarter. He said he was announcing his retirement now because to run for re-election and then retire would have been the dishonest thing to do.