Paul Ryan's loudest enemies in his path to becoming the next House speaker are the same members of conservative media who once called him their darling.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy's, R-Calif., sudden exit last week from the speaker race has left a void that GOP leaders think the Wisconsin congressman should fill. Ryan has told reporters he is not interested in the job, but rumors persist that he can be convinced otherwise.
For right-wing media stars, including radio hosts Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin and Fox News' Sean Hannity, Ryan would be a disastrous choice for speaker. To them, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee would likely do nothing to oppose the Democratic Party's agenda on immigration and free trade.
"They tried Eric Cantor. They tried McCarthy. The only 'Young Gun' left is Ryan who just gave Obama [Trade Promotion Authority]," Ingraham griped on social media, referring to lawmakers granting the president the authority to negotiate international trade deals that can't be filibustered or amended by Congress. "The Establishment GOP routinely promotes [people] who are just really not very smart — or as McCarthy [would] say: They're 'untrustable."
Mark Levin's social media account drew attention this month to Ryan's efforts to work with Democrats on immigration reform.
"NOT SO FAST!" the radio host warned on social media, referring to efforts to draft the congressman for speaker. "Paul Ryan an amnesty advocate, along with his buddy [Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.]."
Fox's Sean Hannity claimed last week that real conservatives don't think Ryan has the guts or conservative credentials to oppose the White House.
"I see a lot of conservatives. They're not even happy with Paul Ryan because of his positions on immigration which they believe will ultimately lead to some amnesty or TARP or bailouts or spending plans," he said on his show. "They don't feel it is dynamic enough."
The cable news host added in an interview with USA Today, "You ended up getting rid of Boehner, you ended up getting rid of McCarthy ... the dumbest thing you should do is stop there. Get the speaker that you want — work to get somebody that will fight the fight that you are looking to engage in."
He also said that he is advising the House Freedom Caucus on how best to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, with their preferred candidate.
"The Freedom Caucus to me is trying to revitalize the Republican Party and get it to be in Reagan's words, not pale pastels but bold colored difference," he said. "John Boehner I think was far too willing to marginalize them and that is not going to be acceptable with a new speaker."
Breitbart News has gotten in on the game as well, repeatedly attacking Ryan as a failed conservative and likely Democratic sympathizer.
"Despite his portrayal by the media as being conservative, most actual conservatives in the House know that Ryan isn't a conservative. He's served as a leadership envoy to conservatives for the past many years but has really been a champion of big government," read one report authored by Matt Boyle.
But these pundits were just fine with Ryan when he tapped to be former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential election.
"Go for the Gold, Mitt!" she cheered on social media, adding later, "No doubt about it — Ryan helps Romney get his A game on the campaign trail. A 'road show' for American renewal."
On Fox News, she touted Ryan as a champion of policy wonks and fiscal conservatives everywhere.
"People, when I talk to them, they seem to be desperate and hungry, more so than ever, for real substance. Beyond the kind of sloganeering and the bumper sticker stuff, and 'Obama's driving the country down,'" she said in 2011. "That's all good and that's all true, but that's why I kinda' like Paul Ryan or Chris Christie or — even today! — Mitt Romney."
Hannity was also overjoyed to see Ryan join the presidential race.
"You got Paul Ryan picked as VP … and the Ryan selection sent a jolt of electricity, and the conservative base, including myself, are energized by it," he said during his radio program on Aug. 17.
He declared elsewhere on social media, "Outstanding choice Paul Ryan. America has a choice this election. ... Fiscal responsibility or Obama turning USA into Greece."
In a 2012 interview with Ryan, he said, "I think it's great having you on the ticket, I'm very happy personally, I've gotten to know you over the years and I look forward to seeing you out on the campaign trail."
Mark Levin spent much of the 2012 election defending Ryan from media scrutiny.
"Paul Ryan is an excellent VP choice," he said on Facebook. "The Obama cheerleaders in the media are already attacking him because of the budget he proposed last year. Well, bring it on. Let's have a fight over substance."
During a radio 2012 interview on Virginia's WMAL, Levin added, "Ryan's articulate. He's confident. He's principled. He's knowledge, and he's a conservative."
At Brietbart, the same staffers who now oppose Ryan becoming speaker also expended a great deal of energy in 2012 billing the congressman as a conservative hero.
Boyle, for example, promoted several stories praising Ryan for "epic" takedowns of the Affordable Care Act, and for "taking Debbie Wasserman Schulz to school" on policy issues, including Medicare and entitlement reform.
But the love affair between Ryan and right-wing entertainment appears to have soured almost immediately after Romney lost the 2012 presidential election to Obama.
During the campaign, Ryan was sold to conservative audiences as a "principled" fighter. In the wake of the 2012 loss, however, and in light of his recent positions on trade and immigration, many pundits on the right now argue that Ryan is no longer "substantive," and that he may not even be a conservative.
But not everyone in right-leaning media sees it that way.
"Argument that Ryan shouldn't be speaker is reasonable. Argument that he's not a conservative is frickn' insane and embarrassing," said National Review's Jonah Goldberg.
For Hot Air's Allahpundit, it's complicated.
"I've always liked Ryan personally (who doesn't?) and I admire him for having tried — and seemingly failed, alas — to raise public alarm about the crisis in federal entitlements," he wrote. "It's no small thing either that the guy's managed to earn the goodwill of people on both sides of the centrist/tea party divide within the House GOP caucus."
"But his record is what it is. And his willingness to work with Luis Gutierrez, the most shameless, unapologetic amnesty shill in Congress, a man who once told a reporter that his only loyalty is to 'the immigrant community,' is … not optimal," he added. "If you're worried about the next speaker being more willing to deal with the left on immigration than Boehner was, Ryan … gives you plenty of reason to worry."