In his column today, Charles Krauthammer sizes up the potential GOP presidential candidates and concludes by noting there's a chance Paul Ryan could end up running in 2012:
Even less likely to run — the 2016 bench
A remarkable class of young up-and-comers includes Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley. All impressive, all new to the national stage, all with bright futures. 2012, however, is too early — except possibly for Ryan, who last week became de facto leader of the Republican Party. For months, he will be going head-to-head with President Obama on the budget, which is a surrogate for the central issue of 2012: the proper role of government. If Ryan acquits himself well, by summer’s end he could emerge as a formidable anti-Obama.
One problem: Ryan has zero inclination to run. Wants to continue what he’s doing right now. Would have to be drafted. That would require persuasion. Can anyone rustle up a posse?
Consider the posse already rustled up, Dr. Krauthammer. The boss, WEEKLY STANDARD readers (and cruisers!), and Ryan's own constituents have been urging Ryan to run for some time now. The latest sign that the "Draft Ryan" movement is continuing apace may be found in Jeff Zeleny's New York Times report this week:
CLINTON, Wis. — Representative Paul D. Ryan was deep into an explanation of his deficit reduction plan, which sits at the heart of a contentious debate between Republicans and President Obama, when he called on a constituent raising her hand in the front row of a town meeting here.
“We need a viable Republican candidate for president,” pleaded the woman, Nancy Champion, a retired schoolteacher. “Will you run against him?”
Mr. Ryan grinned, blushed and promptly tried to change the subject, telling his audience: “She’s not related to me. She wouldn’t say that if she was.” But no, he added, he does not intend to join the Republican nominating contest and try to run against Mr. Obama.
He simply wants to debate him.
But what good is it to debate Obama if no serious Republican presidential candidate is willing to fight for Ryan's proposed reforms? This week, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich distanced themselves from Ryan's Medicare reform, the essential part of Ryan's budget that eventually eliminates the deficit and the national debt.
Pawlenty and Gingrich are leaving space on the right for someone to fully embrace the Ryan plan. Maybe that someone will be Mitch Daniels, whom Ryan has singled out in the past as capable and willing to defend the policies Ryan's been fighting for. (More recently, Ryan said he's keeping an open mind about the 2012 field.) But it's not entirely clear that Daniels will run. And if he does run, he may have a tough time winning the support of social conservatives and foreign policy hawks. Ryan is on good terms with pro-lifers and hawks.
So, really, who better than Ryan to defend the Ryan plan? The logic of his candidacy has been staring us in the face for over a year. As Matthew Continetti wrote in THE WEEKLY STANDARD in February of 2010:
Ryan’s political problem is that he’s a congressman with a presidential-level agenda. The Roadmap is a realistic way to clean up America’s fiscal mess, but there is no chance of it becoming law as long as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid run Congress and Barack Obama is president. Moreover, Bush’s failed Social Security reform and Obama’s doomed health bill show that a president has to have large congressional majorities as well as public approval to pass major changes to entitlement law.
What the Roadmap needs is support from a Republican presidential aspirant. Ryan insists it won’t be him, however. He says he has no plans to run for president in 2012. His disavowal, he goes on, is “Shermanesque.”
That may disappoint conservatives and Republicans who have found Ryan to be an engaging television presence and a successful political entrepreneur. He’s young, charismatic, wonky, and well spoken. He’s already held his own against President Obama. His national profile is on the rise. He recently endorsed conservative favorite Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate Republican primary. He’s scheduled to speak at two fundraisers in New Hampshire later this month.
[Congressman] Devin Nunes jokes that he’s the charter member of the “Draft Ryan” club. As the budget outlook grows darker, expect membership in the club to rise. Because sometimes you don’t pick the moment. Sometimes the moment picks you.
Ryan's main (and sincere) objection to a presidential run is that he couldn't handle being away from his kids for two years while he would be on the campaign trail.
Of course, it's possible that Ryan can continue to debate Obama and wait until the fall to see if any viable candidate takes up his budget. By that time, if no one has risen to the occasion, Ryan could jump in when the entire campaign season would last just over a year. And if he wins the presidency, he would get to work from home and see his kids almost every day.