Paul Ryan on 2016: "I'm Keeping My Options Open"

Daniel Doherty

5/22/2014 2:35:00 PM - Daniel Doherty

Et tu, Paul Ryan?

Rep. Paul Ryan told a group of business elites and donors at a New York City fundraiser that he’s asking friends and supporters “to keep their powder dry” as he mulls a 2016 presidential bid, two attendees told POLITICO.

It was among the most explicit statements Ryan has made to a crowd about his process with regards to a presidential run. And it came at a time when political insiders have questioned how eager he is to run. …

Approached by POLITICO just before votes on the House floor on Wednesday, Ryan declined to discuss the fundraiser.

“I’m not going to get into any of this,” he said.

Asked if the account was true, he replied, “It’s a private meeting” and added, “I said, ‘I’m keeping my options open.’

I wonder: was this remark meant merely to fuel speculation, or was it a serious intimation that he’s going to run for president in 2016? I don’t know. Politico notes that this is the biggest hint he’s ever dropped in regards to that all-important question. So that's interesting. Then again, this is what politicians do: they stoke media interest in themselves by issuing non-denial denials and hard-to-understand statements about running for president at fundraisers and private events. That’s how the game is played.

Nevertheless, Ryan’s presence on the 2012 presidential ticket catapulted him into the spotlight and gave him some much-needed experience dealing with a hostile media. He therefore understands the pressures and rigors of a national campaign in ways, I think, that (say) Ted Cruz and Chris Christie never could. This is an advantage. In a sense, too, I think he’s a lot like Scott Walker in that his brand of conservatism is agreeable to both Tea Party and establishment primary voters alike -- a rare quality. Namely, he has a strong conservative record to run on (despite some blemishes) but at the same time isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and govern.

And yet rumors abound that Ryan desires above anything else to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. If so, his presidential ambitions will presumably have to wait.

Still, he’s a young man with a bright future. No need to rush into anything just yet.