Paul Ryan could potentially be the most conservative House speaker in recent history, whether current far-right members like it or not.
Using common-space DW-NOMINATE—a scaling system developed by academics that allows the comparison of political ideology through history, particularly on economic policy—National Journal charted the House’s last 11 speakers by intensity, from very moderate to very liberal or very conservative.
Compared with previous Republican House speakers, the current chairman of the Ways and Means Committee has the most polarized conservative score. While his rank isn’t the highest on the Hill—the scaling system puts him within the top 20 percent of the most conservative congressman—Ryan’s higher scoring is on trend with the gradual increase of Republican House speaker conservative scores since the 1960s.
The Wisconsin congressman has endorsements from some Republican factions and the support of most of the House Freedom Caucus, which led the fight against Speaker John Boehner. Rep. Daniel Webster, a Florida Republican, had earned the hard-right group’s endorsement before Ryan entered the race, also making him a contender. DW-NOMINATE assigns legislators a score between a very liberal, -1, and very conservative, 1: Webster’s conservative score is a slightly more moderate 0.48 compared with Ryan’s rating of 0.58.
Ryan’s office says he will serve as speaker should all major Republican caucuses support him by Friday. The GOP’s election for House speaker will take place on October 28.
Across the aisle, Democratic speaker scores fluctuated historically; however, the most recent Democratic speaker, Nancy Pelosi, had a stronger liberal rating than her predecessors.
If Ryan officially decides not to run, the GOP will have to deal with a melee of party members willing to step up and take the congressman’s place. Republicans Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Bill Flores of Texas, and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia have all said they will run for the speakership if Ryan chooses not to do so, among others.
DW-NOMINATE common-space scores are based on House and Senate roll-call votes. You can learn more about the system here.
This article has been updated.