Is Paul Ryan thinking about sweeping in and stealing the GOP nomination from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump? Vanity Fair has a theory:
Because Ryan is so beloved by many inside the Beltway, some are suggesting that he parachute into a contested Republican convention—one in which Donald Trump fails to win the 1,237 delegates required on the first vote—and become the party’s nominee. “If we don’t have a nominee who can win on the first ballot, I’m for none of the above,” said Ryan’s predecessor, former House Speaker John Boehner, a couple of weeks ago. “I’m for Paul Ryan to be our nominee.” Sure, Americans seem to be flirting with populism, but maybe what they really want deep down is upper-income tax cuts, Social Security private accounts, and more immigration? Add to that Ryan’s patented smile-frown of humble empathy, and he handily beats Hillary Clinton. It all makes sense.
There are signs that Ryan is open to being drafted. He didn’t mind the idea of being vice president back in 2012, so maybe he wouldn’t mind the idea of being president today. He has shaved his beard, quietingsuspicions of a secret fealty to Islam. He represents the opposite of Trump on many policy fronts, like trade, immigration, and foreign policy. Yes, he has denied interest in the nomination. “While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate,” he has averred. But…oh, sorry, that quote is from last October. It’s what Ryan said about becoming Speaker of the House about three weeks before becoming Speaker of the House. More recently, he hasn’t ruled it out—first telling CNBC, “We’ll see, who knows?” and then trying to backpedal by telling people to “knock it off,” perhaps while batting at the air coyly. Ryan is also doing plenty behind the scenes, including taking a trip to Utah a few days before Mitt Romney gave a speech there denouncing Donald Trump.
Ryan was once a Tea Party favorite, but his allegiance to the establishment and capitulation on a number of spending and social issues rankled many true conservatives who believe he’s no better than John Boehner. Although it may be in the establishment’s best interest to use a brokered convention to stave off a Trump or Cruz nomination, for Ryan, such a move would be the nail in the coffin of what was once a promising political career. The Wisconsin Wonk would lose any remaining support among committed conservatives and basically serve at the pleasure of the establishment.