I’m tempted to endorse him right now but dropping the official candy-ass RINO seal of approval on him might be the final straw that keeps him out of the race.
More seriously, as David Petraeus once famously said: Tell me how this ends.
Indiana governor Mitch Daniels hopes he runs. “If there were a Paul Ryan fan club, I’d be a national officer,” Daniels said in a phone interview Wednesday morning.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that he was strongly encouraging me to try. I’ve been strongly encouraging him to run as well. He has all the qualities our party needs to be emphasizing in these elections. He can explain—and is willing to explain—in plain English why today’s policies are a disaster for the middle class, and he has the smarts to go toe-to-toe with the people who are saying misleading things about the proposals that he’s put out there.”…
Ryan has been receiving encouragement from his colleagues in the House for months. California congressman Devin Nunes, who has worked extensively with Ryan on entitlement reform and spending issues, has been pushing Ryan for months. So has John Boehner, according to two sources familiar with their conversations. Boehner has praised Ryan as a “natural candidate” to fellow House Republicans…
Ryan is in Colorado vacationing with his family this week. Three sources close to Ryan tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD that his wife, Jana, is “on board” with a presidential bid. “That is a very big deal,” says one Ryan confidant. “Not that she’s enthusiastic, but she understands and she’s with him on it.”
Let’s approach the question this way. What makes Ryan significantly different from, oh, say, Tim Pawlenty? They’re both young, smart, soft-spoken midwestern conservatives. Pawlenty had the added advantages of eight years of executive experience and, unlike Ryan, no TARP vote to his record for his opponents to use against him. And he ended up flatlining in Iowa five months before the caucuses. Ryan’s advantage, of course, is that he’s hugely respected on the right among both the grassroots and the establishment for his boldness in pushing entitlement reform. But in a state where it’s considered dangerous to oppose ethanol subsidies, how far is the idea of overhauling Medicare going to fly? How far would it fly in Florida?
There are two great risks to a Ryan candidacy. One: He’ll succeed in turning the focus of the primaries from economic growth to entitlement reform. We can argue about whether that’s a good thing — although Americans care much more about the former than the latter, it may be that this conversation simply can’t wait another moment — but if the party ends up with Ryan’s agenda, it had sure better have Ryan as its nominee too. The worst outcome would be if he shifts the discussion but then ends up losing the nomination, leaving the nominee stuck having to champion Ryan’s goals albeit less effectively than Ryan himself would/could do. And two: A run risks destroying Ryan’s brand. If he jumps in and gets Pawlenty’d in Iowa and New Hampshire, he goes back to D.C. knowing that his reform agenda was rejected even by ardent Republican voters. That would cripple him on the Hill; even if the GOP cleaned up on election day, a new Republican Congress would suddenly be reluctant to pass his budget. He’s taking a big risk on a very long longshot and it could end up setting back not just his political career but his cause.
Beyond that, where’s he getting the money to compete with Bachmann in Iowa, Romney in New Hampshire, and Perry in South Carolina? Having lots of prominent Republican pols behind him will help but more big donors are spoken for with each passing day. His best chance to mount a major campaign, I think, would be if both Daniels and Haley Barbour backed him, which would open up Bush contacts to him on Daniels’s side and RGA donors on Barbour’s end. That could swing parts of the larger GOP establishment from Romney to Ryan, but since the establishment prizes electability as a bottom line, I’m not sure even that would do it. Who’s more electable: Sixtysomething former governor Mitt Romney and his message of jobs and economic growth or fortysomething-going-on-25 congressman Paul Ryan and his message of overhauling grandma’s benefits (which of course isn’t actually his message)? I can kind of see how Ryan would beat Romney in New Hampshire if he rounded up well-heeled donors quickly. Where else does he win, though? How does he beat Perry and Texas’s sterling job numbers? Explain, please. I’d genuinely love to see a path to victory.