Senate Republicans lean on Ryan to keep majority

Story highlights

  • Ryan wants to make sure Republicans keep hold on the Senate
  • His political committees spent more than $100,000 in donations to 13 Senate campaigns

Washington (CNN)Facing steep odds to keep their majority in November, Senate Republicans are leaning on House Speaker Paul Ryan for help even though he repeatedly emphasizes his biggest political responsibility is preserving the large GOP majority in the House.

When he reluctantly took the job last fall, Ryan publicly stated he wasn't willing to do the extensive travel and fundraising typical of most speakers because it would eat into his time to be with his young family. Despite that vow, he has spent much of his time both in Washington and during congressional breaks hitting up donors and campaigning for House Republican colleagues and candidates and has broken fundraising records.
    But the speaker, who got his start in politics as a Senate aide, wants Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the reins of the upper chamber regardless of who wins the White House and is spending considerable time and resources to help him out.
    Ryan mentioned his efforts at his weekly press conference on Thursday, revealing plans for events with Senate candidates competing in two major battlegrounds in Indiana and Ohio.
    "I'm doing a thing with Todd Young pretty soon and I think Rob Portman soon after that," Ryan said.
    Democrats need to pick up 30 seats to regain control of the House, but they can win back a Senate majority if they gain four more seats should Hillary Clinton win the White House, and five if Donald Trump posts a victory.
    The speaker's political committees, falling under the umbrella "Team Ryan" -- which includes Ryan for Congress and Prosperity Action PAC -- spent more than $100,000 in donations to 13 Senate campaigns, giving the maximum amount allowed under federal election rules.
    He has given money to those in swing states such as Portman in Ohio, Richard Burr in North Carolina and Marco Rubio in Florida. He's also contributed to Mark Kirk, who is competing in Illinois, a solidly blue state, and to Rand Paul, who is running for re-election in reliably red Kentucky.
    Some of these candidates are current or former House members who Ryan knows well and are eager to tap him and his successful network with GOP donors.
    Last month, the speaker transferred $2.7 million to the House GOP campaign arm, bringing a total of nearly $30 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee since he took the gavel last October, according to a Ryan political aide. That breaks the record of former Speaker John Boehner, who raised more than $20 million four years ago.
    One of the most endangered Senate Republicans, Ron Johnson, is from Ryan's home state of Wisconsin. Ryan has already campaigned with him extensively and appeared with him at fundraisers. As the state's highest-profile and senior GOP leader, he's authored direct mail and digital appeals for Johnson and is hosting an event in Washington for him next week.
    Earlier this year, Ryan transferred half a million dollars from his own campaign account to the state GOP to build out a ground game to help Johnson and other GOP candidates in the state, and last week, he sent another $250,000.
    Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey is Ryan's old roommate when he served in the House, so he has a special line into the GOP leader. Trump is trailing in most polls in the Keystone State and Ryan is likely to travel there later this fall. In addition to sending campaign cash, Ryan has been featured in some mail pieces in support of Toomey and invited the senator to some events he's hosted for the NRCC in the state.
    Ryan got to know Indiana GOP Rep. Todd Young, who is hoping to win the seat of retiring Sen. Dan Coats, serving on the House Ways and Means Committee. Later this month, Ryan will travel to Indiana to help Young raise money for his battle against former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, who currently holds a healthy lead in the contest.
    Ryan hit roughly 17 events during the month of August for House candidates, but where he could also put in some time for those competing in competitive Senate races.
    At one August event in Nevada, he raised $415,000 in one hour, money that went to Rep. Joe Heck, a current House member who is running to replace retiring Sen. Harry Reid, along with House GOP candidates in the state, according to Zack Roday, Team Ryan's spokesman.
    For those places he hasn't traveled, the speaker has sent checks and used social media to promote GOP Senate candidates. Last month, he tweeted his support for Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain ahead of his primary and sent an email urging voters in the state to back him.
    Usually, it's the candidate at the top of the ticket that helps or hurts congressional candidates. But Ryan made the case that his work on behalf of GOP colleagues around the country will actually translate into votes for Trump, saying on Thursday about his fall campaign plans, "by the way, helping preserve the House majority helps our ticket up and down. It helps our nominee all the way around."