#NativeVote16 – The Speaker campaigns in Montana, but will it help or hurt?

Democrats need to win 30 seats for the gavel to be returned to Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Paul Ryan travels to Montana Sunday to try and unify Republicans who are divided by their own presidential nominee. (CSPAN photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

A couple of days ago I wrote that “there is one tell that’s worth watching: Where are they?” This is better indicator than polls because it shows where the candidates themselves think they are vulnerable.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will campaign this Sunday with Rep. Ryan Zinke in Billings. According to KULR News, Zinke said “by bringing in Ryan and other notable Washington leaders, he is showing lawmakers in D.C. that Montana counts.”

Not to my way of thinking. It shows that the Republican leadership is worried about losing what should have been a safe seat.

But Ryan is a fascinating choice because he highlights the Republican conflict that is Donald Trump.

There is already a move on Capitol Hill to delay the election for the next Speaker (or Republican leadership) until December. giving both sides more time to campaign. According to Fox News the Freedom Caucus had a conference call to explore alternatives to Ryan. There is a Dump Ryan movement that’s as strong as ever.

Trump supporters are angry with Speaker Ryan because they say he’s exactly what’s wrong with the Republican Party.  Talk show host Sean Hannity called Ryan a “saboteur” who “needed to be called out and replaced.” And Rep. Tom Cole said Ryan should just“go fishing for awhile.”

And that’s not even the harshest attack. A long piece in Breitbart News says Ryan and Hillary represent Washington. A picture shows the speaker with an “I’m with her” Hillary background. The piece quotes Patrick Caddell saying the Republican Party Party is “at war with their voters. They are literally abandoning their own.” Ryan, he says, wants Clinton elected. “What you have is a Bush and Clinton dynasty,” Caddell said. “And the curtain has risen on the corruption that they’re all in the same game and that ultimately they’re allies. That’s what the American people have been revolting about. I fear that the establishment’s mind doesn’t even understand that that’s what the base is revolting against.” (The head of the Trump campaign, Stephen Bannon, is a former executive with Breitbart.)

This fracture is not what campaigns want to talk about. Even if voters do. So Sunday’s campaign event will be highly scripted (it’s ticketed and a donation is required). Ryan will campaign for a generic Republican agenda, sans Trump. Zinke won’t disavow Trump, but will praise Ryan, and he won’t be asked about that contradiction.

But there is another narrative to consider: Will women voters support Zinke if he sticks with Trump (even as he holds close to Ryan)?

A letter in the Billings Gazette reflects this very issue. “I was an early supporter of Ryan Zinke for Congress. I saw a proven leader, willing to commit his skills to fix a broken Congress. I thought he would begin to guide elected officials into a more effective decision-making process,” writes Connie Wardell.  “When I heard the tape revealing Trump’s explicit thoughts about women and bragging of his ability to rape women and get away with it, I expected Zinke to be one of the first to renounce his endorsement of Trump. When he refused, I realized that I was wrong in my first impressions of Zinke.”

Ryan’s answer has been to avoid Trump and campaign for Republicans. But Zinke still supports Trump, but, as he told Montana’s Daily Interlake, “You can’t defend Trump. He’s un-defendable … not that that makes Hillary [Clinton] a better candidate.”

A recent poll for Lee Newspapers by Mason-Dixon polling shows that women in Montana already favor Clinton. “Among women voters polled, 44 percent said they would cast their ballot for Clinton and 39 percent for Trump. That’s only a five-point difference, although the margin of error could mean the actual figure is a little higher and therefore more in line with national polls – or even lower and therefore more unusual by comparison.” (The pollster said they didn’t think that would translate down ballot. But they had little evidence.)

But this poll was done a couple of weeks ago and Trump’s gender deficit is getting worse. As a piece in FiveThirtyEight said: “We could be looking at the largest gender gap in a presidential election since at least 1952: Men are favoring the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, in typical numbers, but a historically overwhelming share of women say they will vote for the Democrat, Hillary Clinton.”

And in early voting, so far, women are voting in greater numbers than in 2012. In Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana, 55.8 percent of the returned ballots are from female voters. (The national average was 53 percent four years ago.)

Ryan and Zinke won’t be talking about that, of course. The mission will be to show a unified Republican Party. As if.

And Denise Juneau need not say a word.

Twelve days to go.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com





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Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant is an independent journalist. He currently serves as the Charles R. Johnson Professor at the University of North Dakota.

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