Bill Bennett, from somewhere in the West, e-mailed me: “There are many talented candidates in the race already, but there is always room for a man of Paul Ryan’s intellectual depth, temperament, talent, and conviction.” Bennett and Ryan go way back. In a piece in the Weekly Standard from January, Fred Barnes recounted:
Ryan came to Washington after graduating from Miami of Ohio in 1992 to work for Republican senator Robert Kasten of Wisconsin. When Kasten lost later that year, he recommended Ryan to [the late Jack] Kemp. As Kemp’s assistant, Ryan met the intellectual leaders of supply-side economics, including Larry Kudlow, Art Laffer, Alan Reynolds, and Jude Wanniski. He sounds starstruck in talking about them today.
Bennett says Ryan hasn’t changed. “He was the exact same person then, only younger.” Bennett remembers Ryan asking him, “Dr. Bennett, I’m thinking about running for Congress. Does this pass the laugh test?” Bennett thought it did. Ryan, elected in 1998, still addresses Bennett as “Dr. Bennett.”
It sounds like Dr. Bennett is prescribing a presidential run. Whether Ryan will oblige remains to be seen. But Bennett is on to something: There is still an opening in the field for a conservative Republican with smarts and a broad electoral reach, especially one who has already successfully engaged the president. For those who think President Obama can be beaten on his policies not by personal quips, Ryan remains an attractive figure.
Stay tuned. Bennett’s a very persuasive fellow.