March 9, 2013
Paul Ryan will soon release his new budget plan.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

It is all well and good for the president to schmooze with Republican senators. Each side might become better informed and more respectful of the other’s point of view as a result, and I hope something good comes of it.

But this Insider says the man to watch is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Ryan is ambitious and he is a thought-leader. He wants to be in a position where he can run for president in 2016, and he understands the budget better than anyone in the Republican ranks. Ryan won’t be fooled on substance and he won’t negotiate a deal that breaks with the conservative core of the GOP. Watch him on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace this Sunday, where he’ll discuss the new Republican plan to balance the federal budget in 10 years.

The president could theoretically peel off a few Republican senators to get the 60 votes needed to pass legislation in the Senate. But it is very unlikely that there are 20 to 30 rogue GOP House members who would join with the Democrats to give an Obama-backed bill a majority. Our caucus is mostly monolithic. If Ryan opposes an Obama-backed bill, the president would be lucky to sway 10 House Republicans to vote in its favor. However, if he has Ryan’s endorsement of a bill, it could get up to 200 Republican votes. As goes Paul Ryan, so goes the GOP-controlled House.

The president can go to the prom with any particular Republican senator, but as with all courting, the most significant events occur in private.  The president’s quiet lunch with Ryan is the most important event of the week, and it could prove to be more beneficial than his public revelry with anyone else.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.