House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan appeared on Fox News Sunday today to talk about his chamber’s soon-to-be-released budget proposal (which reportedly has significant flaws), but that wasn’t the highlight of the discussion.
Several things Ryan mentioned -- or importantly, failed to mention -- were highly significant. Not only did he double down on his long-held aversion to serving in the House Leadership -- a pretty significant statement in and of itself -- but he didn’t rule out running for president in 2016 either:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday that he has plans to pursue an elected leadership position in the House and that he is much better suited for policy leadership.
“I have no plans to be in House elected leadership,” the House Budget Committee chairman said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If I wanted to be in elected leadership like speaker, I would have run for these jobs years ago. I’ve always believed the better place for me is policy leadership — like being a chairman.”
Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, said last year’s campaign was a pleasant experience for him.
“I enjoyed the experience. It made it more realistic in my mind. It’s something that I much better understand,” he said.
When asked about the prospect of him running for president in 2016, Ryan said his focus now is on the fiscal work in front him and serving his constituents, not his long-term political aspirations.
“I shouldn’t be clouding my judgment today by thinking about some political thing four years from now,” Ryan said.
I’ve already spent time in these pages talking about 2016 so why stop now? Granted, it’s only 2013, but c’mon. There’s not much else going on.
First of all, I hope any and all concerns that Paul Ryan isn’t ready for the big show were put to rest during the last election cycle. Indeed, during the course of the 2012 campaign, Ryan engaged in literally hundreds and hundreds of interviews -- and not all of them were softballs like the underhand tosses the president was thrown. What’s more, under intense pressure, Ryan chalked up a very strong debate performance against Joe Biden -- proving that he can (a) handle the scrutiny and (b) go toe to toe with the Democrats’ (ahem) best and brightest. If he decides to run in 2016, Paul Ryan is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
But there was also something in Ryan’s tone that caught my intention. And I think the Washington Examiner’s Phil Klein got it exactly right:
Bottom line -- Ryan sounded like he was very likely to run for prez in 2016— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) March 10, 2013
Final thought: If Ryan does run for president in 2016 he’s probably going to face off against a very dynamic and talented field of young conservatives. Will his experiences in 2012 make him a stronger candidate -- perhaps even the front-runner? -- or will voters view his association with Mitt Romney (and failed bid) as a strike against him? That’s a fair question, I think, and one I suspect Mr. Ryan himself is already weighing.
UPDATE: Watch the full clip here.