House GOP believes Ryan won't wage 2016 presidential bid

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., leaves from a press conference after announcing a bipartisan budget deal, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, at the U.S. Capitol on December 10, 2013 in Washington, DC.
T.J. Kirkpatrick, Getty Images

With a landmark budget deal under his belt, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is attracting fresh speculation that he may run for president in 2016.

Among those who don’t think he’ll run, though, are many of the same Republican House members who voted for the fiscal blueprint Ryan recently negotiated with Senate Democrats.

In interviews with The Hill newspaper, more than two dozen House Republicans offered their take on the political future of the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee. Many of them predicted he’ll take a pass on running for president to instead pursue leadership opportunities within Congress, most likely the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Ryan has long coveted the gavel of the powerful tax-writing committee, and it’s probably his for the taking if he wants it. (Current chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., will be term-limited out of the slot after the current Congress wraps at the end of next year.) Ryan even told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that he plans to lead Ways and Means come January 2015.

Others, though, have counseled Ryan to fix his sights higher, urging him to run for Speaker of the House and framing him as the only lawmaker with enough currency among both the base and the establishment to soothe a cantankerous GOP caucus.

“Does the institution need Paul Ryan as Speaker? I think it does,” one House Republican told The Hill.

Asked about Ryan as speaker, Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., gushed, “I think he would be great. You can quote me on that.”

Of course, to claim the top job in Congress, Ryan would need House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to step aside. Boehner has given no indication he plans to do so, and it’s unlikely Ryan would challenge Boehner if he decides to retain his post.

Ryan would also need to overtake House Majority Leader Eric Cantor,  R-Va., whose designs on the speaker’s job have become an item of lore on Capitol Hill.  Some Republicans believe Ryan could outflank Cantor if both decide to take the plunge, but that’s far from a given.

If Ryan does decide to launch a bid for the presidency, his young family and the bipartisan patina of the recent budget deal could both present complications, several House Republicans said.


 “Honestly, I think Paul would struggle in a Republican primary, just because of the issues that drive a Republican primary,” a conservative House Republican who supports Ryan told the Hill.

Another member saw the budget agreement, which was lambasted by outside conservative groups, as a “pretty good sign he’s not running for president.”

And as it is for many potential presidential aspirants, the thought of putting his family through the crucible of a presidential campaign might be enough to keep Ryan in his day job.

“Paul has a young family and was apprehensive about putting them through the run for vice president,” one House Republican told The Hill. “Running for vice president is a walk in the park compared to running for president.”