“I’m not running for president,” Paul Ryan told Hugh Hewitt this morning, “period, end of story.” The House Speaker, calling in from Israel to Hewitt’s new morning-drive program, responded to renewed speculation that Ryan might get drafted at the convention as an alternative to those still left in the race, fueled by remarks made by Karl Rove on Hewitt’s show last week. Ryan insisted that his position three weeks ago remains the same — anyone who gets the nomination should have run for it in the first place:
HH: All right, now I want to turn to, you are going to be the chairman of our Republican Party Convention. I say our. I’m a Republican, for new listeners to the Hugh Hewitt Show at this hour, and longstanding member. I’ve always been an activist. You’re the chairman of the convention. You told the Times of Israel I decided not to run for president. I think you should run if you’re going to be president. I think you should start in Israel and run to the tape. I get that. But you are going to be chairman, and there is quite a lot of talk about Rule 40B. Do you think the rules of the 2012 Convention ought to bind this convention, Mr. Speaker?
PR: You know, I don’t know, that’s not my decision. That is going to be up to the delegates. I’m going to be an honest broker, and make sure that the convention follows the rules as the delegates make the rules. As you probably know, the Rules Committee meets the week before the convention. I believe it’s two delegates from each state and territory, about 112 people…
HH: That’s correct.
PR: …who’ll set the rules, and I’m not going to make an opinion or a judgment one way or the other, because it’s their decision, the delegates’ decision, who are the grassroots of the party, by the way. It should not be our decision as leaders. It is the delegates’ decision. So I’m not going to comment on what these rules look like or not. But I do believe people put my name in this thing, and I say get my name out of that. This is, if you want to be president, you should go run for president. And that’s just the way I see it.
HH: So you’re not the fresh face that Karl Rove was talking about?
PR: No, I’m not the fresh face. [Laughter] I’m not that person. I’d like to think my face is somewhat fresh, but I’m not for this conversation. I think you need to run for president if you’re going to be president, and I’m not running for president. So period, end of story.
The logic of the “fresh face” escapes me anyway. At best it’s the political equivalent of the Hail Mary, a last-minute strategy because there are no other options and nothing to lose, but that’s not exactly where the GOP finds itself. There are two candidates left in the mix with at least a shot at a first-ballot nomination — a front-runner (Donald Trump) with a movement behind him, another (Ted Cruz) whose organization is superior to all others, possibly including the Democrats. If one wanted an emergency option, then John Kasich’s already there with at least a handful of delegates, even though the only state he’s managed to win is his own.
A “fresh face” would come in unsullied by a brutal primary fight, to be sure, but also “sullied” by the fact that the effort would smell like a move by power brokers to essentially negate every vote cast in the primaries. On top of that, the GOP would then have a candidate who has not built any kind of organization and who has not been battle tested at this level at all, with less than four months to go before the general election. The only way to avoid that would be to nominate Mitt Romney, whose freshness is at about zero and who lost what could have been a winnable election four years ago. In what universe are those better options than one of the three candidates already in the race?
Clearly, Ryan agrees. Or at least he’s smart enough not to be part of this particular project.