The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Paul Ryan’s primary foe seeks to capitalize on Trump snub, promptly forgets podium

Every time Donald Trump speaks, he does so behind a podium featuring the same blue graphic:


It's become one of the most ubiquitous bits of branding in the campaign of a man known for ubiquitous branding -- an image that shows up in the accompanying images of basically every story about Trump's speech-giving exploits.

But when House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) primary opponent sought to capitalize on Trump's snub of Ryan by holding a news conference Wednesday, he failed to heed the example.

Paul Nehlen showed up naked -- podiumless.

So his team improvised.

Watch: Ryan's challenger uses man as podium (Video: Storyful)

Yes, that is what could perhaps best be described as a human podium.

To be sure, Nehlen's campaign has been thrust into the national spotlight for little reason other than the man he's challenging and the Republican figures who have either endorsed Nehlen (Sarah Palin) or declined to endorse Ryan (Trump). As with most congressional challengers, Nehlen is a political amateur running a pretty small-time operation.

And his big national TV entree on Wednesday wasn't a rousing success either. Our own Amber Phillips summarized:

It didn't go well. Over the course of the five or six minutes he was on air, Nehlen made several unfounded assertions about his opponent, stumbled in his talking points and came across as just generally unprepared for the spotlight.
First, the assertions:
"He has said he's going to sue Mr. Trump." (Fact check: taken out of context.)
"We wouldn't even have borders if it were for Paul Ryan." (Fact check: What? "I'm pretty sure he's never said we should abolish borders," CNN anchor John Berman said in response. "That would be a pretty extraordinary position for him to take." )
When Berman and Kate Bolduan called him out on those statements, Nehlen stumbled, retreating to his talking points about Ryan's record.

None of this is to say that Nehlen can't beat Ryan. It seems anything can happen in a GOP primary after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) shocking 2014 loss and Trump's nomination this year.

But Nehlen's big debut is also a reminder that Ryan faces an imperfect and apparently only semi-prepared challenger -- a guy whose fortunes will rise or fall depending largely on one man, Paul Ryan, and perhaps Trump if he continues to snub the House speaker.