Ryan has been the most dismissive of presidential talk, declaring that he is focused now on his post as House Ways and Means chairman. He has said he won’t run if Mitt Romney runs again. He has repeatedly said he will think about running for president “later,” but for the foreseeable future he is going to be consumed with budget fights, a potential replacement for Obamacare and a slew of other knotty policy issues. In short, his attitude seems to have been: “I have big things to do in the House, and I might be corralled into the race only if no viable candidate emerges.” In short, without a singular obsession on the presidency it was not likely he’d divert his attention from what he considers to be a dream job; with fellow wonkish reformer Jeb Bush in the race there would be even less reason for Ryan to run. The question will then become where his voters go. Some will certainly drift to Bush, but more conservatives supporters may look to one of the other governors for a standard-bearer of conservative reform.
After a rocky 2013 in which anti-immigration reform right-wingers lambasted him for his comprehensive reform legislation and mainstream Republicans deplored his participation in the government shutdown, Rubio’s presidential prospects declined, and he slowly sunk to single digits in early polling. That moved his chances of running to 50-50. His emphatic declaration that he could run for only one office, either for president or for reelection to the Senate, made a presidential run even more problematic. Would a freshman senator languishing in the polls with stiff competition give up a Senate seat and potentially risk a career that could otherwise extend for decades by running for president? That moved his chances of mounting a run to 35-65. Then along comes Bush, a more senior figure in his own state who will chew up a significant piece of Rubio’s donor base. The likelihood of a presidential run arguably dropped below 25 percent. Rubio, and especially his over-eager staff who thought they’d signed on with a top presidential contender, bristle at the idea Bush would chase him out of a presidential race. But the die may already have been cast. Rubio’s reiteration that he must decide where his service is best needed seems to point to one outcome: securing a key Senate seat in year with many vulnerable Republicans and continuing on his path as a top internationalist voice for the party.
Then there is Romney, who readers of Right Turn know was in our eyes never a serious prospect. A cadre of supporters and donors looking for vindication has tried mightily to keep the embers of another run burning, but Romney himself put it best: He has had his chance. His wife, who has started a foundation to combat multiple sclerosis and other diseases, never seemed enthusiastic about another run. Sure, if no viable candidate emerged and if Ryan did not feel obligated then to take the plunge, the Romneys could be cajoled into another run. But with Jeb Bush looking more and more certain as an actual candidate (one does not resign from boards just to test the waters), the need for another Romney candidacy largely disappears.
If I were a betting person, I would put money on Ryan and Romney staying out. Rubio, maybe because of pride, might be a tad more hesitant to bug out, but in the end, the more reasoned course of action would be a Senate run. But, of course, all of this could be entirely wrong, reminding us that unpredictability is one of the most attractive qualities of politics.