Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Wis.) has released the following statement:
“I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party’s nomination for President. I remain hopeful that our party will nominate a candidate committed to a pro-growth agenda of reform that restores the promise and prosperity of our exceptional nation. I remain grateful to those I serve in Southern Wisconsin for the unique opportunity to advance this effort in Congress.”
This ends some vigorous efforts by Ryan supporters to urge him to get into the race. From his perspective, he is a young man with many election cycles ahead. The daunting task of running for president may seem less so with the passage of time.
For now Mitt Romney is breathing a huge sigh of relief. A Ryan candidacy would have eaten into his support among moderate, reform-minded Republicans and been a magnet for fiscal conservatives, business leaders and those desirous of building a broad-based coalition. The question now remain whether Romney or Texas Gov. Rick Perry can consolidate and expand their support, becoming the consensus candidate Ryan supporters hope the congressman would be.
For Romney and Perry the task, I would suggest, is three-fold. First, each must rhetorically show some range. By that I mean, Perry needs to sound more sober, mature and reasoned to the ears of suburban voters, moderates and business leaders. Romney, on the other hand, needs to speak in bolder tones, squelch the tendency to equivocate and reach out to Tea Partyers and social conservative. Second, both need to take up the mantle of entitlement reform, an issue that will unite the conservative base and an area in which Obama’s leadership has failed. And finally, they would do well to take some risks, showing both leadership and daring. For Romney, an explicit Social Security plan would show some verve and courage. For Perry, holding firm on his moderate stance on immigration and reaching out to Hispanic voters would show character and answer the electability issue.
Ryan’s decision highlights a yearning among conservatives for a brainier, bolder and more civil style of politics. We’ll see if any of the current candidates can show they can fill that bill.