The Washington Post

The worst kept secret in D.C.: Conservatives trying to get Ryan to run

It’s ironic — or not, as I will explain later — that a few days after Texas Gov. Rick Perry announces for president the conservative buzz is all about Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Wis.). Stephen Hayes, whose boss, Bill Kristol, first floated on this blog the idea of a Ryan ticket (back then it was Ryan-Odierno), is out with a piece detailing the efforts over the summer to convince Ryan to run. He adds these tidbits:

“He’s coming around,” says a Republican source close to Ryan, who has been urging the 41-year-old to run.

“With Paul, it’s more about obligation than opportunity,” says another Wisconsin Republican. “He is determined to have the 2012 election be about the big things. If that means he has to run, he’s open to it.”

Ryan hinted at his thinking during a candid interview Friday with Charlie Sykes, an influential talk radio host in Milwaukee, telling Sykes that he was unsatisfied with the current crop of Republican candidates.

I know of multiple conservative “envoys” who have privately met with him, urging him to run and pointing to the lack of serious debate on the issues Ryan knows best (taxes, entitlements, etc.) The latest meeting was last week when a highly regarded emissary in the conservative movement visited him to reiterate the case for his presidency. A person with knowledge of the meeting joked that he hoped Ryan would find “inspiration” on the mountain top.

Jim Pethokoukis of Reuters lays out the case for a Ryan run:

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) Ryan — to borrow a favorite Simon Cowell phrase — is “current.” 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 another reason for Ryan to run, of course. The current GOP field is, even with the addition of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, uninspiring to many. Who is the guy to go toe-to-toe with Obama and make the conservative case against him in a way that is compelling to the general electorate? The pro-Ryan contingent just doesn’t see anyone. Although the push for a Ryan run preceded by months the entry of Perry into the race, Perry’s comments on Bernanke and Perry’s Texas persona have only heightened fears that he won’t be able to win back the White House for the GOP.

A Republican think-tanker who previously worked in the White House has been among those urging Ryan to run. I asked him why he’s so certain that Ryan is the right man. He replied that it is more than the conviction that Ryan would be a good president. He explained that “this is a match between the man and the moment. What I mean by that is that we’re in a particularly perilous situation economically. In most instances, what we hope for in a president is someone who is capable of making wise and informed decisions that lead to economic growth. Competence and good judgment are enough. But if we are in a period of unusual hardship and unusual challenges — which I believe to be the case — then we need to find someone of unusual gifts and talents.” He adds, “The one public figure who is comparable to Paul when it comes to this skill set is Governor Mitch Daniels. But his decision not to enter the race means we’re now down to one. And Ryan is the one. It’s true that he’s young, that he has no executive experience, and that the hour is growing late. But not too late. The stars, I think, are aligning his way. And now is his time.”

Provided he enters the race, of course. Karl Rove, who has warned against tardy entrants, is suggesting there are “vibrations” emanating from the Ryan and Chris Christie camps.

But what about the timing? If nothing else, Perry has at least confirmed that everything before (and maybe including) the Ames straw poll is largely irrelevant. No filing deadlines have passed. There is no consensus figure in the race as yet. The debates in the fall are the perfect forum for Ryan to make his case and outshine the competition. He’s already conducted dozens of town-hall meetings, the same setting that is most effective in Iowa and in New Hampshire.

When will he decide? In the next week or two, I am told. If he does decide to jump in, the entire GOP primary changes.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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