Guy Benson

After weeks of careful deliberation, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has decided not to run for president in 2012.  His conclusion is final.  Stephen Hayes has the details:


Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan has decided for a final time that he will not run for president in 2012, THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned. Ryan, who began seriously considering a bid in late May after Indiana governor Mitch Daniels took himself out of the race, had consulted with top Republicans, including Karl Rove and Frank Luntz, as he contemplated his political future. And though many of those he talked with told him he would be a viable candidate in such a fluid race, even as a late entry, Ryan ultimately decided to continue his focus on debt and entitlement reform as chairman of the House Budget Committee.


Ryan didn't offer a specific explanation for his final call, but Hayes says his sources believe Ryan's concerns over the toll a presidential run would have taken on his young family were a major factor.  Meanwhile, two other names crop up in Hayes' exclusive story:
 

Ryan spoke with New Jersey governor Chris Christie earlier this month and, according to four sources familiar with the call, the two men agreed on the need for Republicans to field a candidate who isn’t afraid to engage the public—and Democrats—on entitlement reform. Christie, who had given a speech chastising timid Republicans on that subject in February, told Ryan that he did not intend to run. Christie’s representatives have said the same thing in public.

Ryan’s comments on the Republican field came one day before Texas governor Rick Perry announced his candidacy, though he was widely expected to join the race. Perry’s campaign reached out to Ryan last week and, while there is no indication Perry’s entry in the race had any bearing on Ryan’s decision, the two men plan to meet in a few weeks when they are both near Washington, D.C. Perry has called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and called for reform. That’s stronger language than Ryan typically uses but Perry is plainly willing to raise these previously untouchable issues.


I'm a strong admirer of Rep. Ryan and the important work he's doing as head of the House Budget Committee.  When this rumor resurfaced in a significant way last week, I argued on the Hugh Hewitt Show that Ryan would run an enormous risk by gunning for the White House in 2012.  With the recent injection of a new, exciting candidate into the field (Perry), a delayed, slow roll-out by Ryan may have petered out before if really had a chance to pick up steam.  I say "may" because it's impossible to project what would have happened, but I believe there was significant risk of a flop -- a flop based on the political situation, not Ryan's policies.  In my estimation, this would have done damage to Ryan's nearly pristine conservative "brand."  Because Ryan is such an effective communicator, the protection of his brand could very well be important to conservatism for years to come.  If, hypothetically, he'd returned to Congress having failed to secure the GOP nomination, Democrats would almost certainly have used that fact as a cudgel with which to bash his 2013 budget.  ("Even Republican primary voters rejected Paul Ryan's extremism...")

Paul Ryan is 41 years old, exceptionally bright, and happens to be situated in a position of power that is tailored perfectly to his strengths.  As ecstatic as I'd be by the election of President Paul Ryan, I think he's made a wise decision here.  Like Chris Christie, Mike Pence, and others, it seems he's adopted the long view when it comes to possible presidential aspirations.  Now, let's all allow Mr. Ryan get back to the essential work with which he's currently tasked:
 


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography