Answer: He thinks he’d lose. Oh, you want more than that? I don’t mean he’d lose the nomination. Nobody in the party is as widely popular as Ryan. He’s attractive. He’s intelligent. He’s focused. He’s witty and well spoken. He’s very conservative—but he’s flexible.
Remember his speech last month, in which he regretted talking about “makers” and “takers”—a direct repudiation of Mitt Romney’s “47%” mentality.
Perhaps Ryan “doth protest too much,” as Shakespeare said. That is, politicians are always denying interest in an office. They want it to look like they gave in to popular demand. Look at Ryan’s refusal to consider being Speaker of the House. But now that he’s there, he realizes he has real power. Not only is he third in line of presidential succession (behind Biden), but also, unlike John Boehner, Tea Party representatives listen to him.
Trouble is, Ryan thinks the party is headed for disaster. Many Tea Partiers in “purple states” who were elected in 2010 are likely to lose, giving the senate to the Democrats. He also feels that the primaries have done serious damage, handicapping any Republican presidential nominee. And in this anti-establishment year, how would people think about the party giving the nomination to someone who didn’t run in even one primary?
Regardless, the real reason Ryan won’t run is that he’s in a position to be the only Republican with real power next year.
Take a moment and imagine that this garbage fire of an election is over. It’s January 2017, President Hillary Clinton is being inaugurated, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has become by far the most powerful figure in the Republican Party simply by continuing to sit where he is while all his rivals set themselves on fire.
By early next year, Ryan could be the only prominent establishment Republican whose reputation has not been destroyed through loss to Trump, supplication to Trump, defeat in a Senate race because Donald Trump is losing a landslide at the top of the ticket, or some other similarly horrible fate.
Alternatively, if Ted Cruz manages to grab the Republican nomination, Ryan would start 2017 in an even stronger position. Cruz would also lose badly to Clinton, the other non-Trump candidates for the nomination would still be humiliated, Senate Republicans would be pointing fingers at each other about who lost the majority, and Ryan wouldn’t need to compete with Cruz for the role of Republican standard-bearer after the election.
And Ryan has not been sitting still. He’s working hard to maintain the Republican majority in “his” House.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said on Wednesday that he has raised $17.2 million in congressional campaign contributions during the first three months of 2016 through a network of political action committees organized to help House Republicans in the November election.
The announcement came a day after Ryan strongly rejected any notion that he could become this year’s Republican presidential nominee. It underscored his role in helping fellow Republicans as he works to win agreement on a budget resolution and to shape his caucus into an effective mouthpiece for Republican social and fiscal policy.
The first-quarter fundraising allowed the Wisconsin congressman to transfer $11 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee during the period, including a monthly NRCC record of $6.3 million in March, according to Ryan’s political office.
And Ryan is also the Chairman of the Republican National Convention. In that position, he can actually already tell the party and the candidates what to do.
Speaker Paul Ryan warned Tuesday that if GOP presidential candidates wait until after the Republican National Convention to get their acts together, it would be “too late.”
“I learned in 2012 running with Mitt Romney if you wait until after the convention to all of a sudden get your act together and then produce an agenda in say August or September, it’s too late,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.”
That’s why Ryan said he and House Republicans are focused on offering their own conservative agenda early so that people spend all summer and fall talking about it ahead of November’s general election. Some of that agenda could include tax reform, regulatory relief, an Obamacare replacement and foreign policy ideas.
Ryan’s view is that the party is probably headed for chaos and humiliation. He thinks he will be “the last man standing,” and will be able to run the entire party, and rebuild it from the rubble. Not everybody agrees. Donald Trump is totally unpredictable, and he knows how to connect with people, so he could surprise a lot of pundits, and win in November—easily.
But Trump is not a party bulwark. Trump sees his job as coming in and cleaning up the mess in Washington. He will need Ryan more than anybody, and the relatively young Ryan has plenty of time to become president in four or eight years. In 2024, he’ll be only 54. Unlike Cruz and Rubio, Ryan is quite willing to wait until his time is perfectly right.