House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) does not get a lot of buzz these days about the 2016 presidential nomination. That is in part by design. In focusing on policy issues and his transition to the Ways and Means Committee chairmanship, he lets others take on the bright, hot light of media attention and criticism. But his stock is nevertheless rising as a potential candidate. Here are 10 reasons why:
- The return of Hillary Clinton and her shopworn ideas remind us what a stark contrast a Clinton vs. Ryan matchup would be: The tired liberal past against the new conservative reformer.
- He is one of the few Republicans who avoids getting vilified either by the tea party or the establishment.
- In a time of economic troubles and foreign policy turbulence, he brings much more experience than any of the freshmen GOP senators who are likely to run in 2016. He is, by any account, a serious person who has thought through public policy for years.
- He has already been vetted and come up “clean” by the Romney campaign.
- The criticism that he is not a charismatic figure, although overblown in my mind, is also now a bit of a blessing. The country has found out the hard way what a razzle-dazzle talker can be – a lousy president.
- He is thoroughly versed in foreign policy and has championed an increase in defense spending, a necessity in re-establishing American credibility.
- Before it became fashionable, he was an advocate for reform policies that encourage upward mobility and for badly needed entitlement reform. He remains an advocate of immigration reform but was not tarred by the battle over the Senate plan.
- He is a staunch social conservative but does not hector or denounce those with whom he disagrees.
- His biography: He comes from a small town in the Midwest, he lost his father at an early age, and his down-to-earth demeanor makes him accessible to average voters in ways neither Mitt Romney nor Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) were. Again the contrast to Hillary Clinton is stark.
- He knows from personal experience what a presidential campaign is like (among the likely contenders, only Texas Gov. Rick Perry can say that). It’s an immense advantage under any circumstances, and in Ryan’s case it may also give him access to Romney’s donor list.
No candidate is perfect. Ryan is too cerebral for some. He does not have executive experience per se (although putting together a budget and playing a key role as architect of conservative policies certainly helps). He is not an “outsider” at a time the country seems to dislike anyone with a 202 area code. But politics is relative; you have only to beat the next best candidate. And recent events underline the importance of mature leadership and remind us that celebrity candidates are often not the people you want in a crisis.
It’s not clear Ryan wants to run for president. However, especially if Jeb Bush doesn’t run and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is still hobbled by the bridge scandal, look for the party to descend on him en masse and plead with him to run. He might be the only person capable of denying Hillary Clinton the presidency.