On my way to steal your congressional seat: Meet the Tea Party performance artist challenging Paul Ryan's incumbency

Nehlen embodies a level of false-machismo that even Donald Trump can't match

By Brendan Gauthier

Published June 6, 2016 5:11PM (EDT)

From Scott Brown to Donald Trump to, now, Paul Nehlen, we're in the beginning stages of a hyper-masculine renaissance political advertising.

Nehlen, a Tea Party Republican, is running for House Speaker Paul Ryan's seat in Wisconsin's first district, which includes Milwaukee, the state's largest city. He calls himself an "executive, entrepreneur, and inventor."

Among his stances: "secure our borders," "reject corrupt international trade agreements," and "more perspectives on the issues coming soon."

His campaign swag is adorably gauche with its singular item being a "Dump Paul Ryan" stress balls shaped like dump trucks for when "you see Paul Ryan or one of his establishment allies spewing false narratives and empty promises in the news."

It should also be noted that Nehlen actually drives around a dump truck emblazoned with the "Dump Paul Ryan" slogan. Though "a popular gimmick with the public," the truck was vandalized while parked along a Memorial Day parade route in Kenosha.

Nonetheless, Nehlen keeps on truckin', responding to the vandalism, "When your opponent’s supporters feel the need to vandalize your campaign property, you know you’ve gotten under their skin."

But the pièce de résistance of the whole mess has to be the ads.

This one, from May, shows Nehlen — no helmet, no sleeves, no problem — cruising the countryside on his Wisconsin-made hog with his wife, Gabriela, riding along.

"I'm a businessman. I make things. I create jobs," he says. "TPP is a job-killer. It's gonna kill American manufacturing."

Cut to: interior, factory. Nehlen, wearing a suit with a comically stiff collar, challenges Ryan to "come back to Wisconsin and debate me man-to-man." [Rips off protective eyewear, in gross violation of OSHA standards.] "If you don't wanna debate me, maybe we can arm-wrestle."

Then there's this brand new bad-boy:

On location in the Rio Grande, Nehlen carries a plastic bin labelled "DRUGS" across the water, soaking the lower part of a pair of dark-wash dad jeans, for the greater good.

"Cheap Mexican heroin is killing Americans in record numbers," he warns. "I wanna keep the cartels from killing our kids."

Brendan Gauthier

Brendan Gauthier is a freelance writer.

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Elections 2016 Paul Nehlen Paul Ryan Tea Party