Former House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that he believes the “safe” 2024 Republican presidential nominee will 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 directors of Fox News’ parent company, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Ryan was asked about comments from another Trump Republican critic, former Rep. Liz Cheney, who said in 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 to him.”
“I think it’s much more likely that we’ll lose, we haven’t won anything with him since he first won in 2016,” Ryan said of Trump. “We lost the House in 2018, the presidency in 2020, the Senate in 2020, and we could have won the Senate in 2022 if not for him.”
“I’m all for anyone not named Trump,” he added, “because I think we’ll beat Biden for sure if we nominate a Republican not named Trump.”
Ryan also brushed off a reference to his status as a Fox Corp. board member when jokingly asked if Chairman Rupert Murdoch would tell him who to back in 2024.
Ryan had sunk pressure for remaining on that board as court documents in a high-profile defamation case revealed that Fox hosts privately expressed doubts about Trump’s false claims of voter fraud that aired on the network. That defamation case was settled for more than $787 million.
“I’m going to endorse whoever I want,” Ryan said in response.
A Trump campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Ryan had a sometimes testy political relationship with Trump, and since leaving Congress in 2019 has been open criticized the previous president. He acknowledged that he has been defending Trump “for a long time” and that Trump’s base “doesn’t like a person like me.”
In fact, Ryan had reportedly he quit campaigning for Trump in the final weeks of the 2016 election, when his campaign appeared to be in jeopardy following the release of the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump boasting about groping women.
Ryan, now a partner at private equity firm Solamere Capital, criticized Biden’s economic record on Wednesday, blaming him for America’s high inflation ahead of what the White House said will be a main speech about the economy
The major spending bill that Biden championed early in his term as a necessary step to reinvigorate a Covid-damaged economy “put the gas pedal on inflation,” Ryan said. “Clearly all this spending hurt inflation.”
Ryan said he expected “good rhetoric” and “well-handled statistics” from Biden’s upcoming speech. “But it’s going to be just another industrial policy play. And this is what makes you lose 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 criticized both Trump and Biden for “promising not to reform rights.”
“We have these leaders who say, ‘I’m not going to do anything to stop the debt crisis in this country,’” Ryan said, arguing that the president is “causing disaster on that front.”
Trump, the clear favorite 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 Republican competitors. Both Trump and Biden have attacked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s main Republican rival, for his earlier support for Ryan’s plans to restructure the programs, even though DeSantis has backed down from that stance.
After it was pointed out that Trump has a huge lead in the polls 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 strongly believe that if we nominate a Republican not named Donald Trump, we will win this White House.”