Finally: Paul Ryan to rule out presidential run at RNC press conference this afternoon

Let’s review: He’s not running. He was never going to run. You’d need to be a borderline imbecile to believe that a convention packed with delegates loyal to Trump and Cruz would turn to Ryan barring anything short of a bitter, protracted stalemate on the floor. It’s overstating it to say that Ryan would be the single most absurd nominee the convention could choose in a year roiled by anti-establishmentarianism — that distinction goes to Romney — but he’s right up there. Even if the party’s leadership wanted him, there’s little they can do to stop Trump and Cruz from rewriting the rules to eliminate Ryan from contention. All the Rules Committee, which will be packed with Cruz and Trump loyalists, would need to do is tweak Rule 40 to say that no one shall be nominated who fails to claim a majority of delegates in eight states on the first ballot. And as much as Trump has a well-deserved bad rap for organization, he still has some sort of national infrastructure that he can use for the general election. Ryan would require an out-of-the-box campaign cobbled together somehow by Romney loyalists with less than four months to go to election day.

So repeat as necessary: He’s not running. This afternoon he’ll make that as clear as he can.

House Speaker Paul Ryan will hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon to again definitively rule out a White House bid this year, according to an aide.

Ryan will appear at the Republican National Committee’s headquarters on Capitol Hill Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.

Why, this is exactly how he handled the Speaker race last year, isn’t it? He said he didn’t want it, nosirree, and then he accepted the position. It’s the same play! Right, except for the minor detail that there wasn’t one prominent Republican in the House who wanted to be Speaker while there were 17 Republicans who wanted to be president, including two guys who have been killing each other for months to become nominee. Accepting the gavel involved filling a vacuum; accepting the nomination would be a usurpation. And Ryan knows it. Politico anticipated his looming “Sherman statement” this morning in a piece titled “Why Ryan won’t run”:

In fact, in Ryan’s universe — among the small group of insiders who know Ryan’s thinking firsthand — the sentiment is resolute: Ryan will not accept his party’s nomination. He simply doesn’t want to be president right now. One aide said “over my dead body” would Ryan emerge from Cleveland with the GOP nomination. In an interview with Politico last month, Ryan was perplexed that the issue hadn’t been put to bed, saying, “I am not going to become the president through Cleveland.”…

They say the national media are misreading his moves. Even if Ryan did have an itch to run for president, he could not swipe the nomination from a front-runner with 1,000 delegates, give or take, or a field of 17 candidates that spent months and millions of dollars vying for the job. If Ryan wants some sort of future in Republican politics, he cannot be seen as going to the party convention in July and stealing the nomination from Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

I felt a headache coming on yesterday reading this piece at the Observer (a paper owned by Trump’s son-in-law, by the way) hyperventilating over Ryan meeting next week with fatcat donors, at least one of whom is hostile to Trump. What sinister skullduggery might be afoot? Um, he’s the Speaker of the House; raising money for Republican House candidates is part of his job. If there’s a Trump angle to that meeting, it won’t be about muscling Trump out and handing the nomination to Ryan at the convention. It’ll be about the grave danger Trump’s nomination poses to congressional Republicans this fall if his polling is as toxic then as it is now. Ryan’s going to spend the rest of the year begging Republican bundlers to help him build a firewall against Trump in the general election for Republican House candidates who might otherwise see themselves swept away in a blue wave. I wrote about that last week, how Ryan’s higher profile lately is all about giving voters a different image of the party down-ballot this fall, but if you won’t take it from me, read this NYT piece from yesterday. Sen. Tim Scott put it well, calling what Ryan’s doing a “parallel policy campaign.” That’s exactly right, and he’s doing it for the benefit of his caucus. They don’t want to run on Trumpism so Ryan’s trying to put together a program that they do feel comfortable running on. It won’t save them if Trump gets crushed, but it might save a few if the race is closer than expected.

For what it’s worth, Rasmussen polled likely voters on head to head match-ups involving Ryan and the two Democrats left. Result: Hillary leads him by six points whereas Sanders leads him by seven — a respectable showing given that Hillary leads Trump by an average of 10 points nationally but still proof that Ryan is no silver bullet for the party’s problems. In fact, fully 28 percent of Republicans say they’d vote third-party in a Clinton/Ryan race, a serious and credible threat given the inevitable perception among Trump fans and Cruz fans alike that the nomination was stolen by party insiders for their favorite son. If you think #NeverTrump is a potential general-election problem, imagine what a #NeverRyan movement would be.

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