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Paul Ryan takes center stage in new ad from Democratic super PAC

A Democratic super PAC released an ad attacking House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (Video: The Washington Post)

Two days after Pennsylvania voters delivered a stinging rebuke to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and his Republican House majority, a leading Democratic super PAC is looking to twist the knife.

House Majority PAC is debuting a TV ad running for a week starting Thursday on national cable networks as well as during local news broadcasts in the Milwaukee media market, which reaches most of Ryan’s southeast Wisconsin district.

The ad features a Ryan look-alike stepping out of a limousine and sipping champagne — and working out in the gym — while a narrator describes “Wall Street millionaires that Ryan gave billions in tax breaks” and kicking “millions off health care.”

“Whoever Speaker Ryan thinks about,” the ad says, “it probably isn’t you.”

The ad comes as a retort to scores of ads targeting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that Republican candidates and outside groups have bombarded airwaves with from 2010 right up until this week’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Pelosi has frequently responded to the attacks by pointing out that Ryan is just as unpopular as she is, if not more so, and the Democratic lead in the GOP-leaning Pennsylvania district appears to have started bearing that theory out.

Democratic candidate Conor Lamb, who has declared victory even as Republican opponent Rick Saccone prepares for a potential recount, openly broke with Pelosi during the race. But he also kept his criticism trained on Ryan and his economic policies, particularly his budget plans that have called for cuts in Social Security and Medicaid.

During the campaign, Lamb’s stock response when asked about Pelosi was to pivot quickly to Ryan — something he did again in a Wednesday morning appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“I think we need new leadership at the top of both parties in the House,” he said in response to a question about Pelosi. “And so I’d like to see someone besides Nancy Pelosi run and that’s who I would support. But I definitely would like to see a different leader than Paul Ryan on the other side.”

Ryan, for his part, brushed off the close result in Pennsylvania, calling Lamb a candidate “who ran against the minority leader, who ran on a conservative agenda” without acknowledging his campaign’s opposition to Ryan’s own policies.

House Majority PAC Executive Director Charlie Kelly said in a statement that the ad is meant to turn a page in Democratic messaging, from defense against the Pelosi attacks to a more offensive footing aimed at Ryan and his policies.

“Paul Ryan’s gotten a pass for far too long,” he said. “Those days are over. Ryan is deeply unpopular across the country, and it’s because so many hard-working Americans know the truth — he’s a fancy politician who won’t stand up for them or their families. And if they don’t already know that, we’re going to make sure they do.”

Meanwhile, Ryan’s concerns may go beyond messaging. Lamb is ahead in a district that voted for President Trump in 2016 by 20 points and is rated as leaning Republican by 11 points by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Ryan’s own district, Wisconsin’s 1st, voted for Trump by only 10 points and has a five-point GOP lean, according to Cook.