Paul Ryan, running for President of the United States? Not if he’s smart.
I’d say that a Member of the House jumping into the race this late would not have a plausible chance of winning. Paul Krugman calls him the “commentariat candidate,” and I think that’s a good call. Here’s the thing: a lot of Washington-based reporters who cover Congress and the White House have a long history of overrating the chances of Washington insiders, most famously Lyndon Johnson in 1960, but I’d include more recent presidential duds as James Baker, Don Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney. House Budget Chair isn’t the worst seat in the world for raising money, but anyone jumping in this late is going to be at a disadvantage. The House has historically been a terrible platform for launching a candidacy.
There’s not a lot of polling on Ryan that I can find, but a recent Public Policy Polling survey in Wisconsin (you know, the state he’s from) had him at 41/46 favorable/unfavorable, so in his home state he’s fairly well known but not very well-liked. Members of the House are almost all unknown to the American people, and while pundits and political professionals have been fairly obsessed with Ryan for the last few months, most Americans don’t pay close attention to politics, and probably know little about him.
Of course, the other obvious problem with a Ryan nomination is that he’s best known for a massively unpopular Medicare plan, and nominating him would be a fairly insane choice, as it would constitute a massive double down on the plan by the GOP. I’m sure there are plenty of Republicans who find that idea enticing, but presumably there are quite a few who aren’t completely meshugenah. Political scientists usually argue that issues and candidate are usually not all that important as fundamentals such as economic performance. But Ryancare is a different matter altogether: Nominating Ryan would make the election an argument over the GOP’s least popular policy proposal, instead of a referendum on the economy, which would be the GOP’s best chance of winning.
It doesn’t hurt Ryan to have these sorts of rumors floating around, but there’s every chance that he’d peak the day he announced. He has a great position right now; I think he’d be very foolish to jeopardize it with a (very) longshot presidential run.