Shortly after Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his retirement, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said he wasn’t interested in the job. Almost immediately after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dropped from the race to replace Boehner, Ryan issued a statement saying he still was not interested.
Now, with no major, unifying candidate stepping forward, Ryan may be shifting his perspective.
Thursday night, while speaking to reporters regarding the day’s events, Ryan refused to say yes or no to a run at the top House post.
“I’ve got no news for you.”
Friday morning, when a reporter stalked outside his office, his response did not change.
“I’ve got nothing to add, nothing to say.”
It makes it clear that Ryan’s adamant denial in interest in the Speaker’s chair has waned to serious consideration in the short time since the race exploded Thursday morning.
As pundits were guessing who would be the compromise choice for Boehner’s job, calling it a placeholder person until the 2016 elections have finished, and others were writing the death of the Republican Party, party leadership was imploring the Ways and Means chair to reconsider his decision. It did not take long for speculation to turn to Ryan once again, however, after the former vice presidential nominee canceled fundraisers and cleared his schedule for the next couple of days. And while CNN is reporting he is still hard against the seat as third in line to the presidency, others are saying that he is seriously considering it.
Ryan is widely seen as one of the few candidates on the Hill who can actually unify the warring factions of conservative and more established congressman. His wonkiness on budgetary issues makes him a favorite across the spectrum of House Republicans, plus he has the youth – he’s just 45 – and experience to please many different outside groups.
In the past day, Boehner, Reps. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and Devin Nunes (R-California), have personally encouraged Ryan to change his mind. Cole, whose name is also being bandied about as a viable alternative, said that Boehner is well aware that Ryan is the only real choice left.
“Nobody cares more about this institution and this conference than John Boehner does, and I suspect he knows better than any of the rest of us, the best choice is Paul Ryan, so I’m sure he would be doing whatever he can, but he has not told me he’s doing that,” Cole said. “But look, they’re pretty close.”
Cole later said Friday morning he thinks Ryan will relent. This despite Ryan’s close friends saying he is driven by policy – his budgets tend delve heavily into policy nuances – whereas the Speaker’s job is all about management.
“I think eventually Paul Ryan will get into this thing, I really do,” Cole said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I think we’ve had two guys fall on their swords for the good of the conference, in this case it’s hard not to step up when there’s an overwhelming demand.”
But, just because Ryan may jump into the race for the sake of unity doesn’t mean he will have an easier path to victory than any other choice.
On CNN, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) said he still backs Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Florida), the conservative Freedom Caucus choice that basically thwarted McCarthy’s chances Thursday. Members of the caucus are demanding changes to the House rules to ensure their policy agenda sees the House floor for actual votes, including one that virtually strips the House Rules committee of its responsibilities.