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Ryan for President?

Paul Ryan is in the final stages of deciding on a presidential run.

10:18 AM, Aug 16, 2011 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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But in private meetings with conservatives urging him to run, Ryan was more open to a bid and that serious consideration started shortly thereafter. Early this summer, Ryan met with two different Republican strategists to game out what a late-starting run would require, making clear that he was truly just asking questions and not yet planning. He continued to take calls from top Republican fundraisers, neither committing to a bid nor ruling one out. And he asked his staff to look at whether he would have to give up his seat in the House if he were to jump into the Republican primary.

Last week, Ryan’s Prosperity PAC sent out a fundraising letter seeking money to run ads in Iowa to counter attack ads run against Republicans by the Democratic National Committee. “The DNC is attacking all of the candidates for their support of my Path to Prosperity budget,” Ryan wrote. “We have to fight back. With your support, I’m planning on launching a counter-attack to educate Iowa voters about the Path to Prosperity and how it’s the only plan currently on the table that saves Medicare.”

Iowa Republican Party chairman Matt Strawn says that Ryan has an open invitation to come to visit Iowa and talk to Republicans – “whether as a presidential candidate or national conservative thought leader.”

Perhaps more telling was Ryan’s request not to serve on the debt supercommittee created by the recent deal on the debt ceiling. Ryan has become driver of policy in the Republican Party, with a focus on debt and deficits. And virtually everyone assumed he would have a seat on the committee. But Ryan went to House speaker John Boehner and specifically requested to be left off of the panel. In his public statements, Ryan said he needed time to work on budget reform in the House. While there’s little doubt that Ryan is keen to work on reforming a badly broken budget process, a source close to the Wisconsin congressman says he asked to remain off the supercommittee in order to preserve the option of a presidential run. The same source says that Boehner encouraged Ryan to run.

In his interview Friday with Charlie Sykes, Ryan argued that the supercommittee is not the place to debate debt and deficits – the 2012 campaign is. “The reason I don’t think it’s going to get us another grand bargain – or should – is we should not have a system where 12 politicians cut some agreement in a back room that restructures the whole design of the federal government in three months time. This is a decision that should be brought to the American people.” He added: “I think we need to have a discussion and a debate about how we’re going to deal with this debt crisis because that will determine the kind of country we are going to be and the kind of country we are going to be for a long, long time.”

That’s the kind of debate that would take place during a presidential race, of course. Ryan does not see anyone in the current Republican field who is making such a debate the center of his or her presidential campaign. Perhaps not surprisingly, Ryan disagrees with the conventional wisdom that the entitlement reform proposals in his budget plan are poison to Republican candidates across the country. He points to the results of the recalls in Wisconsin last week, where the battles centered on Ryan’s plans for retooling Medicare as much as Scott Walker’s successful and increasingly less controversial budget reforms, as “vindication” for the solutions that House Republicans have put before the American people.

Ryan spokesman Conor Sweeney says his boss has nothing to declare. “While grateful for the continued support and encouragement, Chairman Ryan has not changed his mind.”

That seems to be true. No one close to Ryan will say that he has made a decision to run. He is using this family vacation—almost two weeks away from Washington—to give serious thought to diving off of that cliff. 

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