Joan Walsh observes:
There’s not much of a national market for used VP candidates who lost the election. He can talk to Dan Quayle (who admittedly won once), John Edwards, Joe Lieberman and Sarah Palin for advice. Only one in American history, the extraordinary Franklin Delano Roosevelt, has gone on to be elected president. Ryan’s got to know that as Romney’s chances to be president evaporate, so do his.
This was one of the many reasons I thought it unwise for Ryan’s boosters to promote him for the vice presidential slot. Now that he is on the ticket, his future political career is tied to the fate of a flailing and not very effective nominee, and Romney’s loss will almost certainly mean the end of future presidential ambitions that he or his admirers may have in mind. It is possible that Ryan might follow the example his mentor Kemp and not even seek nomination in a later cycle, but he is much younger than Kemp was in 1996 and enjoys more status in the party as a whole. It’s doubtful that Ryan’s boosters will want to see him remain in the House for very long, and next time they might prevail on him to launch his own presidential bid. As Walsh notes, this rarely succeeds, and it would be inadvisable next time for many of the same reasons that it was a bad idea in this cycle, but it might happen.
Movement conservative Ryanmania helped to propel him to this point, and it could continue through a second Obama term as he resumes his role as default opposition leader in Congress. Ryan would likely be shielded from blame for the ticket’s failure. The idea that Ryan has been “smothered” and needed to be “unleashed” earlier in the campaign could be used to argue that the ticket would have done better if only they had allowed Ryan “to be Ryan.” Romney’s blundering in the last week makes it even easier to argue that Romney is solely responsible for most of the biggest mistakes of the campaign. Ryan’s presence on the ticket initially helped many disgruntled movement conservatives to get over most of their reservations about Romney’s nomination, and should the ticket lose it will serve as the focus of speculation about how things might have gone if only Ryan had been at the top of the ticket. We saw some of this in 2008 even before Obama won, and in Ryan’s case there would be even more of it. Even if a loss in 2012 ended Ryan’s future presidential chances, it could perversely secure his position among movement conservatives all the more.