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Speaker Paul Ryan might quit. Here's why he should

House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-WI)
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House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-WI)

There are a growing number of reports saying House Speaker Paul Ryan is considering stepping down just after the election. That makes sense, because Ryan's position looks more and more untenable given the current and likely future state of things on Capitol Hill. Most of Ryan's problem can be summarized in two words: "Donald Trump." But his and the establishment Republican Party's severe challenges are older and more serious. The Trump phenomenon isn't the cause of Ryan's woes, it's just the symptom.

Ryan is stuck in a lose/lose situation. If Trump wins, his lack of decent support for his own party's presidential candidate will make any relationship with the Trump White House difficult to say the least. A number of more pro-Trump members of his own party in the House will surely push themselves to be Speaker and run in the party caucus elections on the strong argument that they will be able to work better with the new administration. It's hard to think of any strong counter argument Ryan and his supporters could offer.

If Hillary Clinton wins the election, Ryan will still face sharp opposition from those more pro-Trump forces within the Republican Party. And if the election is as close as most polls are starting to predict it will be, those Trump supporters in and out of Washington are likelier to be even angrier at GOP leaders like Ryan whose lack of support they are likely to blame for the close loss. And if Ryan somehow survives that mess, there seems to be no way that he could grab enough support to advance any of his legislative agenda in compromise mode with the Clinton White House.

It's not a pretty picture either way. But again, Ryan and the Republican Party's problems began well before Trump and even this presidential election. In fact, the GOP as a national brand died in the eyes of the majority of the voting public on September 15, 2008. That was the day of the Lehman Brothers collapse, confirming the start of the Great Recession to go along with the public's belief that the Iraq war had been a terrible failure.

"The only slim chance Ryan has to remain as Speaker and get something done is for Trump to win the White House and Ryan to find a way to eat some very public crow."

Fairly or unfairly, the Republican Party took the blame for those developments. In the short term, they derailed any chance John McCain had to win the 2008 election. But for eight years running, they've destroyed any chance of any Republican winning a presidential election. The only reason Trump has a chance is because he is so clearly not a pure establishment Republican and is running mostly like a third party candidate. The blame so many voters, even GOP voters, put on the established members of the party for overall economic trends and bitterness about the Iraq war is the reason why Trump was able to beat those 16 establishment Republicans so easily in the primaries.

Ryan is certainly younger and had nothing to do with President George W. Bush's Iraq policies, but he still represents a party that Republican voters in a lot of the deepest red states don't identify with anymore. Calling for cutting taxes and regulations on businesses is still the hallmark of Ryan's message and brand. Trump calls for that too, but those policies play second fiddle to a more populist message that those disaffected Republicans do like.

By leading off his campaign with strong arguments against illegal immigration and "bad" trade deals, Trump showed just where Ryan and their buttoned-down traditional GOP message was missing the mark. For millions of Republicans burned by the recession and figuratively or literally wounded by the Iraq war, Ryan's GOP has little appeal. It shouldn't have taken a Trump win in the Republican primaries to make that clear to the establishment in the party, but it did.

So it's not that Trump stole the party away from the Paul Ryans of the world. Trump simply grabbed a GOP that had already moved away from them anyway; it was there for the taking.

The only slim chance Ryan has to remain as Speaker and get something done is for Trump to win the White House and Ryan to find a way to eat some very public crow to Trump's satisfaction. Then, Ryan would have to convince Trump that's he's still the man to push through their mutually-agreed on tax and regulation cutting agendas. To do that, Ryan would probably have to show a lot more willingness to execute any immigration or border control reforms Trump wants to happen.

But the above scenarios seem like a tough needle to thread even if Trump pulls off an upset win. Ryan's options are running out and his chances of post-presidential election success are narrowing by the day. Maybe he doesn't deserve to be the scapegoat for the GOP's disconnect with so many voters. But nobody said politics was fair.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

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