Politico reports that Paul Ryan isn’t running a phantom campaign for president despite some appearances to the contrary:
Ryan’s orbit firmly believes that, in a few months, everyone will look at this bubble and realize just how ridiculous it was.
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.
Speculation about Ryan’s intentions strikes me as little more than this year’s version of the 2012 fantasy candidate gossip that a few pundits indulged in last time. During the 2012 cycle, we kept hearing from Bill Kristol et al. that it wasn’t too late for the field to include more candidates, and one name after another was floated to stave off the boredom of Romney’s inevitable victory. This year the outcome is much less certain, but the desire to find a new candidate late in the process is still there. Ryan was the subject of such speculation in 2011 and again in 2014 and 2015, so it was probably bound to start up again now that it looks as if there really could be a contested convention. But it still doesn’t make sense, not least because Ryan seems genuinely unwilling to fill the role that is being created for him.
Besides, are we really supposed to think that making a video from Ryan’s underwhelming speech on politics from earlier this spring represents the launch of an effort to snatch the nomination through convention shenanigans? The content of the speech was so anodyne and unremarkable that it would not have been out of place at a No Labels conference. Decrying identity politics is probably one of the least risky positions one can take in the GOP, since almost all Republicans would vehemently deny that they practice it. If Ryan is angling for the White House at all, it would have to be for a future election cycle and not this one.
Even if Ryan is looking ahead to the next election, I’m skeptical that he would be the one that the GOP gets behind. No one has secured the nomination of either major party running from the House in well over a century, and I doubt Ryan will be the one to change that. It sometimes happens that a party will nominate a losing VP nominee from a previous election, but it is unusual and it hasn’t happened in decades. Assuming that the GOP loses the presidential election this year, Ryan will be stuck for the next four years in the unenviable position of playing Boehner’s role while dealing with a Clinton White House, and any deals he makes along the way will be held against him by quite a few primary voters. It’s possible that Republicans will be so tired of losing presidential elections by that point that they won’t care about any compromises Ryan makes, but I wouldn’t bet on it.