So Paul Ryan has now made it official: After a period of deliberation, he really, truly, definitely, absolutely will not run for President. His decision is final. That means he won’t be reconsidering it next week, or the week after that, or the week after that.
Of course, we already pretty much knew this. The last time word surfaced that he was thinking about running despite previous denials, his spokesman reiterated that he had not changed his mind.
Putting aside whether Ryan was really considering running or not, the intensity of speculation that he might run is the really interesting thing here — it shows just how badly Republicans want another candidate to enter the race. ABC News’s Rick Klein had a smart reaction to the Ryan news, noting that it’s “remarkable how the 2012 primary race is STILL being dominated by those who aren’t actually running for president.”
Indeed. While such will-she-or-won’t-she speculation is par for the course, the speculation about Republicans who aren’t running for president has been remarkable this cycle. It was painfully obvious to anyone who understood Donald Trump’s hucksterism that he was never going to run for president — yet he remained at the center of the political conversation for weeks. Chris Christie has been forced to deny that he’s running at least a dozen times. The thirst for another candidate to enter the race is such that Sarah Palin is now actively toying with her fellow Republicans, releasing a campaign-style Iowa video that was transparently about renewing media interest in her even as it made no news whatsoever about her actual intentions.
The speculation about Ryan was particularly interesting, however. While Dems have been salivating for the man most associated with the GOP’s desire to end Medicare as we know it to enter the race, many on the right were willing to tolerate this liability, arguing that Ryan would be the best equipped to make the case for his plan against the inevitable Dem “Mediscare” attacks. Given that the GOP Medicare plan is deeply unpopular in spite of Ryan’s extensive sales efforts, this doesn’t speak too well of the abilities of the other candidates. What’s more, Ryan was attractive because he’s one of the only high-profile credible candidates who lacks the rest of the field’s glaring flaws. He doesn’t have a record of embracing crazy and extreme positions that could dash the GOP’s hopes in a general election (Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann), and isn’t utterly lacking in an ideological core (Mitt Romney).
Ryan’s decision means that for now, the GOP is stuck with that crop of frontrunners — and their liabilities.