Bill Kristol, who’s been a driving force behind the idea of a “Ryan-Rubio” 2012 presidential ticket, wrote yesterday:

[T]he GOP presidential candidate in 2012 needs to present a broad economic critique of, and alternative to, the Obama-Bernanke-Geithner economic model, not just a slightly faster path to deficit reduction or a slightly different view on tax rates. Fiscal, tax, budgetary, monetary, and regulatory policy all have been — to one degree or another, and for a shorter or longer period — on the wrong track, and their parallel wrong tracks are part of a broader liberal-welfare-state misunderstanding of sound political economy.

The GOP is going to nominate someone who articulates a critique of our present path. It would be better to have a candidate with a bold and comprehensive critique, and a grasp of sound political economy, than a candidate who simply wants to tinker—or one who goes off the rails in pursuit of populist approbation or gimmicky proposals.

Well, yes, this is the argument for a Ryan candidacy. Who else is talking both big picture ( e.g. limiting government, preserving a dynamic free market, preventing entitlement programs from strangling us economically and distorting our values) and specifics ( he is still the only one with a serious budget plan on the table)?

Jim Pethokoukis (the sole reason to read Reuters) thinks the potential for a Ryan presidential run is hardly farfetched:

There’s desire at the highest ranks of the Republican Party, according to my reporting and sources, to see House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan seek the 2012 presidential nomination.

Pethokoukis reasons:

1) Since Democrats are determined to hang Ryan’s bold “Path to Prosperity” budget plan around the neck of every Republican running for office in 2012, why not have its author and best salesman advocate for it directly vs. President Obama?

2). . .He’s smack in the middle of budgetary and ideological clash between Democrats and Republicans and would immediately energize conservative and Tea Party activists.

3) Ryan is a strong national defense conservative, as well as pro-life.

4) Ryan is from a battleground state, Wisconsin, and a battleground region, the upper Great Lakes.

5) Ryan’s youth, vigor, likability and Jimmy Stewart persona — well, a wonky version of George Bailey — would be an immediate shorthand signal to voters that he’s a different kind of Republican. He also has a compelling life story to tell.

6) Obama suddenly and unexpectedly to Washington insiders looks beatable — by the right candidate.

There is a seventh reason as well: Everyone else is either horridly flawed (Newt Gingrich), a joke (Donald Trump) or just not that exciting ( Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels). That’s not to say one of these candidates couldn’t be “good enough,” but if you match each of the likely contenders up against Ryan, they look decidedly unattractive to many conservatives. The author of RomneyCare or the author of the “Roadmap for America”? The “social truce”advocate or the unabashed pro-life congressman? The disastrous former speaker of the House or the current, wonky budget committee chairman? You get the idea.

With fewer candidates than expected in the race, there is plenty of campaign talent around. (And did anyone notice how professional and effective was the ‘campaign’ to roll out his budget?) And, I suspect, that should Ryan enter the race he’d have no problem raising the needed cash.

Ryan has said he doesn’t want to run, but sometimes the question of “want to run” is a luxury. There are times when the moment presents itself, the party and the country are receptive, and there is no one else quite as compelling. Think Bill Clinton in 1992. Ryan has some time, though not much, to decide whether he wants to fill the obvious gap in the GOP field. And if party activists, insiders, Tea Partyers and operatives think Ryan is the man, then they’d better start making their wishes known.