Paul Ryan sits out conservative machismo arms race

Ryan, who turned 43 earlier this year, carries himself with the confidence of a pol who knows he has a head start on his rivals. But it’s also the air of a true policy wonk who has experienced a presidential campaign and has serious reservations about whether he wants to launch his own run.

“He’s got three options,” the Ryan ally said. “If he does nothing, he probably becomes Ways and Means [Committee] chairman. If Boehner steps down [after the 2014 midterms], there will be a lot of pressure on Paul to run for speaker. And he’s got to decide whether he wants to run for president.”

Ryan declined to be interviewed for this article.

Another person close to Ryan said that he does not think Ryan will run for president. Both Ryan confidants predicted he will take the Ways and Means chairmanship and wait for a shot at speaker after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) — or an unexpected challenger to Cantor like the current Ways and Means chairman, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) — has had the job.

There are two contingencies. First, Ryan’s circle believes there may be considerable demand within the Republican conference that he run for speaker immediately in 2015, assuming Boehner retires, and they exude an air of uncertainty about how to respond if that occurs. And second, Ryan has become interested in a run at one of Wisconsin’s Senate seats if the opportunity presents itself. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, is up for reelection in 2016, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, is up in 2018.