Former House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday he believes the 2024 Republican presidential nominee will “for sure” be able to unseat President Joe Biden — unless that person is former President Donald Trump.
“It’s a disaster if we nominate Trump,” Ryan, who also serves on the board of Fox News’ parent company, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Ryan had been asked about remarks from another GOP Trump critic, former Rep. Liz Cheney, who said at a conference Tuesday that Democrats are “playing with fire” if they assume they can beat Trump in the general election.
Cheney is right that Trump “could win,” Ryan said, but “I think we lose with him.”
“I think we’re much more likely to lose — we haven’t won anything with him since he first won in ’16,” Ryan said of Trump. “We lost the House in ’18, the presidency in ’20, the Senate in ’20, and we could have won the Senate in 2022 but for him.”
“I’m for anybody not named Trump,” he added, “because I think we beat Biden for sure if we nominate a Republican not named Trump.”
Ryan also brushed aside a reference to his status as a Fox Corp. board member when he was jokingly asked if Chairman Rupert Murdoch would tell him who to endorse in 2024.
Ryan had come under pressure for staying on that board as court documents in a high-profile defamation case revealed Fox hosts privately expressed doubt about Trump’s false election fraud claims that were aired on the network. That defamation case settled for more than $787 million.
“I’m going to endorse whoever I want,” Ryan said in response.
A spokesman for Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Ryan had an at-times testy political relationship with Trump, and since leaving Congress in 2019 has openly criticized the former president. He acknowledged that he has been making the case against Trump “for a long time,” and that Trump’s base “doesn’t like a person like me.”
Indeed, Ryan had reportedly sworn off campaigning for Trump in the final weeks of the 2016 election, when his campaign appeared to be imperiled following the release of the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump bragging about groping women.
Now a partner at private equity firm Solamere Capital, Ryan on Wednesday slammed Biden’s economic record and blamed him for high U.S. inflation ahead of what the White House said will be a major speech on the economy.
The major spending bill that Biden championed early in his term as a necessary step to revitalize a Covid-damaged economy “hit the gas pedal on inflation,” Ryan said. “Clearly all this spending hurt inflation.”
Ryan said he expected “nice rhetoric” and “well-massaged statistics” from Biden’s upcoming speech. “But it’s going to be just another industrial policy play. And this is the stuff that gets you lost decades,” he said.
“If you want to run capitalism through government like China does, I don’t think we’re going to win that bidding war,” he added.
The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Ryan also took a shot at both Trump and Biden for “promising not to reform entitlements.”
“We have these leaders who are saying, ‘I am not going to do anything to stop the debt crisis in this country,'” Ryan said, arguing that the president is “courting disaster in that front.”
Trump, the clear front-runner in the Republican primary field, has repeatedly vowed not to cut Social Security or Medicare, aligning him more closely with Biden than some of his GOP competitors. Trump and Biden have both attacked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s top Republican rival, over his past support for Ryan’s plans to restructure programs, even though DeSantis has backed off that stance.
After it was pointed out that Trump holds a major polling lead over the field, Ryan argued on CNBC that he and Biden “have a symbiotic relationship with each other.”
“They make the best case for each other’s candidacies, and it’s a total disaster for our country,” he said.
He added: “I believe strongly, if we nominate a Republican not named Donald Trump, we win this White House.”