On the surface, their arguments would seem to make sense: Ryan is the lesser evil, they say. He's a guy we can actually work with, they explain.
But it's also true that their words of support probably don't actually help Ryan -- like, at all. And to a conspiracy theorist (or, more aptly, a "realist"), they would seem to be aimed at hurting him.
Already, some conservatives are wary of the man who establishment Republicans see as their last, best hope to keep the fragile House conference together. And they've already used a Democrat's support for Ryan as proof of his impurities.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) first gave Ryan his ringing endorsement this month, calling him one of the smartest men in the party. "Paul Ryan is the kind of individual that would work with people on the other side of the aisle and that's what we need," Gutierrez said. His words were almost immediately held up by tea partiers as an example of what's wrong with Ryan. "Work across the aisle," you see, is not what these groups want; they want unflinching principles.
Jenny Beth Martin, one of the founders of the tea party, referenced Gutierrez high up in a piece published Monday in Politico Magazine called "Paul Ryan as Speaker Would Be More of the Same:"
"[H]e was John Boehner’s handpicked salesman for 'comprehensive immigration reform' (read: amnesty for illegal immigrants) to the House GOP Conference — a job he did so well that Democrat Luis Gutierrez, the top amnesty supporter in the House, has endorsed Ryan for speaker."
We'll point out here that Democrats have a vested interest in who eventually replaces Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and how long this drama drags on. The longer Republicans wait to elect a speaker, the less chance Congress has to get important things done this fall and winter, like fund the government and lift the debt ceiling to pay its debts.
But allow us to get cynical for a minute and say: It's more than likely that some of these Democrats (read: Harry Reid, at least) are not trying to help Paul Ryan become the next speaker, at all.
Chris Hansen, chief of staff to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), sure seems to think so:
For what it's worth, Reid's team fired off a quick response:
Reid is known for his calculating -- some would say Machiavellian -- political chess moves. The fact that a figure so reviled on the right would make it known that he's in on the Ryan bandwagon makes us more inclined to think something's up. Reid knows what impact his words will have, and that impact is not making Ryan's path to the speakership any easier.
He acknowledged as much Tuesday when one reporter pointed out that Reid's endorsement probably wouldn't help Ryan any. "You speak the truth," Reid said.
In the near term, it makes sense: Cause the already-longstanding GOP drama to drag out even longer, even if it does up the risk of a government shutdown.
But over the long term, it's also not hard to see how Democrats might prefer to work with someone like Ryan rather than someone from the Freedom Caucus. If Ryan's really who they want, though, they're probably best-served keeping their mouths shut.