Paul Ryan/Paul Nehlen matchup among several statewide primary election races Tuesday

Trump involvement helps boost Nehlen
Posted at 8:59 AM, Aug 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-09 19:21:39-04

Polls are open in Wisconsin where voters are making decisions in a primary election. Voters need to show a show photo ID before casting a ballot Tuesday. The primary is open, which means people don't have to be registered members of a party to vote in that party's primary. But people can't vote in both parties' primaries. The polls close at 8 p.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan had nearly $10 million in the bank and a primary opponent no one had heard of. Then Donald Trump got involved. An expected walkover for arguably the country's most powerful Republican became one to watch on Tuesday, with Ryan seeking to avoid the most shocking of upsets against a political unknown hoping for a Trump bump.

Paul Nehlen's star rose after Trump praised him last week on Twitter, then later pointedly withheld his endorsement of Ryan. Trump relented just three days later after coming under criticism from GOP leaders, but the burst of publicity was priceless for Nehlen.

No House speaker in modern political history has lost a primary, and Ryan is hugely popular in the southeastern Wisconsin district he has represented for nearly two decades. He crushed a protest candidate in the GOP primary two years ago, winning 94 percent of the vote. The only other time he had a primary challenger was in his first race, in 1998, when he won with 81 percent of the vote.

But Ryan responded quickly to Trump's dabbling in his race, determined to avoid the fate that befell House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his surprise primary loss in 2014. Ryan's huge financial advantage has allowed him to blanket the airwaves with ads, and he made the rounds on influential conservative talk radio stations as Trump threatened to steal the spotlight.

Ryan had outraised the unknown Nehlen by a 17 to 1 ratio through the latest reporting period, and while Cantor was widely criticized for ignoring his district, that wasn't the case with Ryan. He has made a point of returning to Janesville as often as possible to be with his wife and three children, and was initially reluctant to accept the speakership for fear it would keep him away from Wisconsin.

Nehlen, an executive at a water filtration company, first made a splash with a web video of him riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, showing his tattooed arms. He challenged Ryan to an arm-wrestling match if he wouldn't debate him.

He ran well to Ryan's right, accusing Ryan of betraying Trump and favoring a "globalist agenda" of disastrous trade deals and porous borders. Nehlen attracted support from Sarah Palin and conservative provocateur Ann Coulter, with the latter appearing alongside Nehlen in the district over the weekend.

Other races of note include Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore squaring off against for state senator Gary George in Congressional District 4

Milwaukee County District Attorney race features the incumbent John Chisolm up against challenger Verona Snanigan.

Wisconsin Sen. Lena Taylor, who represents much of Milwaukee's north side, square off again challenger Mandela Barnes in the race for the 4th Senate District.