Now, some key questions: Did one of the most powerful Republicans essentially concede that Democrats will likely take the House in November? And can Democrats capitalize?
Democrats need to win only 24 seats to win back the House. Taking into account Ryan’s announcement, a total of 24 House Republicans are now set to retire when this session of Congress ends – the largest number since 1973. An additional three Republicans have resigned their seats mid-session, leaving them vacant.
“Ryan certainly believes we’ll take back the House, and he’s admitting his tax scam is as toxic as we’ve been saying all along,” Tyler Law, a spokesperson for the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee told ABC News.
The DCCC has vowed to spend money and resources in more than 90 races that it says will be competitive this year, a record number for the group. The organization has also been tracking potential GOP retirements with a “retirement watch” feature on its website and predicts more Republican retirements to come, even in states where candidate filing deadlines have passed.
During his news conference Wednesday, Ryan said he is “confident” he will be handing his gavel to a Republican as the next Speaker and that the possibility of losing the House was not a factor in his decision. The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Steve Stivers, said in a statement that their mission to hold the House “continues unabated.”
But for months major Republican donors have toiled with the reality that the House may be a lost cause. One major Republican donor who works closely with Rep. Kevin Cramer's North Dakota Senate campaign told ABC News in a phone interview that Ryan's announcement "finally" said plainly that it may make more sense for funders to switch fundraising dollars to Senate races.
“This is going to be huge for the small dollar contributors who are key to making sure that Democrats have the resources they need to win in the fall,” Neil Sroka, Communications Director for Democracy for America told ABC News, adding, “the skies may be the limit for Democrats in 2018.”
Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesperson for MoveOn, one of the largest grassroots groups on the left, agreed and said he thought the Speaker’s decision will encourage Democrats who had been nervous or waiting to start giving.
Ryan’s departure from the Congress means that the Republicans could lose one of the most prolific fundraisers for the party.
The retiring Republican has funneled nearly $40 million of that to the National Republican Congressional Committee to help keep the Republican majority in the House in the upcoming 2018 midterms.
ABC News' Soorin Kim contributed to this report.