Jonathan Chait: Paul Ryan Is Running for President

Jonathan Chait says that until Paul Ryan says he wouldn’t accept a nomination for Republican presidential candidate, we should assume he wants the gig.

From New York Magazine:

Begged by conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt to save the party, Ryan demurred:

I do believe people put my name in this thing, and I say get my name out of that. This is, if you want to be president, you should go run for president. And that’s just the way I see it … I think you need to run for president if you’re going to be president, and I’m not running for president. So period, end of story.

This statement is being reported as a firm denial of interest, but it should be understood in context. Ryan’s history is to acquire a reputation as lacking ambition even as he rockets up the ranks. His repeated denials of interest in serving as Speaker of the House were, in retrospect, merely a negotiation over the terms under which he’d accept the job. (Therebellious House Freedom Caucus, the counterparty to the negotiation, turned down Ryan’s demands. He accepted the job anyway.)

Sometimes politicians have reasons to stoke presidential speculation without having an intention to run. Maybe they’re gauging potential interest, or maybe they’re looking to attract media attention to elevate their profile. Ryan has no such motivation. If he wanted to rule out getting the nomination at the convention, he could simply state he wouldn’t accept it. He hasn’t.

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