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Paul Ryan wins Wisconsin primary in landslide. Any lessons for Trump?

House Speaker Paul Ryan beat businessman Paul Nehlen by a 5-1 margin in the Wisconsin primary.  Ryan cautioned against reading too much into the win when it comes to Trump's chances in November.

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    House Speaker Paul Ryan leaves the podium after addressing the media inside the Armory in Janesville, Wis., following his defeat of Paul Nehlen in Wisconsin's primary on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. Ryan rejected the idea that his easy win Tuesday over a longshot Republican primary challenger praised by Donald Trump spells danger for Trump's presidential prospects in the swing state of Wisconsin.
    (Anthony Wahl/The Janesville Gazette via AP)
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It turns out House Speaker Paul Ryan was right not to worry about that primary.

Representative Ryan's race against an inexperienced challenger, made briefly compelling by Donald Trump's involvement, turned into a rout when the voting started Tuesday.

"We knew we were going to do well," Ryan said, after he beat businessman Paul Nehlen by a 5-1 margin. "We got the votes we were hoping and expecting to get all along. The outcome is exactly what we were hoping for."

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Ryan rejected the idea that his easy win Tuesday over a primary challenger praised by Trump spells danger for Trump's presidential prospects in the swing state of Wisconsin.

All the huge primary win means, Ryan insisted, is that he's really well-liked in the congressional district where he was born and raised and that he has represented since 1998.

Businessman Paul Nehlen had been courting Trump supporters and won praise from the Republican presidential nominee last week. But despite their strained relationship, Trump endorsed Ryan days later.

"I don't think it means he's doomed in November," Ryan said of Trump. "I think it means right here in Wisconsin, people know me very, very well."

Ryan had largely ignored Nehlen in what had been a sleepy primary before Trump thanked Nehlen on Twitter for his comments defending Trump. Nehlen won the backing of some prominent conservative figures, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, but it wasn't enough to overcome Ryan's popularity in his southeastern Wisconsin district.

"We knew we were going to do well," Ryan said. "We got the votes we were hoping and expecting to get all along. The outcome is exactly what we were hoping for."

This is Ryan's first re-election win since becoming speaker last fall.

He went into the primary with massive advantages in name recognition and money. Ryan had outraised the unknown Nehlen by a 17 to 1 ratio through the latest reporting period, and was largely ignoring his opponent and was expected to win easily.

Trump changed all that the week before the primary, when he tweeted thanks to Nehlen for support while Trump was being vilified for remarks about the Muslim American parents of a U.S. soldier slain in Iraq. Trump also said he wasn't ready to endorse Ryan, who had joined in that criticism.

Trump shifted course a few days later under heavy pressure from Republican leadership, but by then Nehlen had gotten a burst of national publicity.

Ryan responded with a blitz of radio appearances and added a pair of campaign stops the day before the election, determined to avoid the fate that befell House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, when the Virginia Republican lost a primary to a little-known tea party challenger.

Ryan had other advantages, including widespread popularity in the district. Ryan had also worked hard to maintain those home ties, traveling back to Janesville as much as possible to be with his wife and three children.

Nehlen, an executive at a water filtration company, first made a splash with a web video of him riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, showing his tattooed arms. He challenged Ryan to an arm-wrestling match if he wouldn't debate him.

He ran well to Ryan's right, accusing Ryan of betraying Trump and favoring a "globalist agenda" of disastrous trade deals and porous borders. Nehlen attracted support from Palin and conservative provocateur Ann Coulter, with the latter appearing alongside Nehlen in the district the weekend before the election.

Nehlen said in a message on Twitter after the crushing defeat that his candidacy "damaged PaulRyan's ability to continue growing government. That's the beginning of a fight we're ready to get started."

Meanwhile, the primary's other top race was in northeastern Wisconsin, where GOP Rep. Reid Ribble's retirement opened a swing congressional seat. Mike Gallagher, a former Marine who served as national security adviser for Gov. Scott Walker's presidential campaign last year, handily defeated two opponents in the Republican primary.

Gallagher told The Associated Press that his campaign benefited from his being a political outsider. This was his first run for office, while his closest challenger, Sen. Frank Lasee, has been in the Legislature since 1995.

"This is a year when being an outsider, being someone who is not part of the system and having national security experience resonated with a lot of people," Gallagher said.

He said he planned to take the same approach in the general election against Tom Nelson, the Democratic Outagamie County executive who ran unopposed. Nelson, a former state representative, touted his experience in a news release after Gallagher's win.

"For too long, Washington has been paralyzed by partisan bickering and gridlock," Nelson said. "I'm running for Congress because we need more people with the experience and the skills necessary to represent northeast Wisconsin."

Gallagher had Ribble's support and picked up late endorsements from a slew of GOP heavyweights.Ryan and Gov. Scott Walker endorsed him after the win.

Ken Staszak, voting in Green Bay, called Gallagher "the more conservative of the candidates" and said he "seems like he wouldn't take any crap."

No House speaker in modern political history had lost a primary, and Ryan was keen to avoid the fate that befell House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 primary, when his political career ended due to a tea party challenger.

Nehlen had been courting Trump supporters and won praise from the Republican presidential nominee last week. But despite their strained relationship, Trump endorsed Ryan days later.

Nehlen said in a message on Twitter after the crushing defeat that his candidacy "damaged PaulRyan's ability to continue growing government. That's the beginning of a fight we're ready to get started."

Ryan will face Democrat Ryan Solen, an Iraq war veteran, in the Nov. 8 general election.

Three other congressional incumbents — Democrats Gwen Moore and Ron Kind and Republican Sean Duffy — all won.

In an unusual legislative race, incumbent Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor easily dispatched with a challenge from state Rep. Mandela Barnes. No Republican was running in the Milwaukee race, making it all but certain Taylor would retain the seat.

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