Paul Ryan didn’t win the vice presidency in 2012, and the thinking now is that his role as Mitt Romney's former sidekick is both a plus and a minus if he runs in 2016.
Inside the Beltway, Congressman Ryan – chairman of the House Budget Committee – had long been seen as a rising young star, best known for his mastery of budgetary and fiscal matters. Now he has a national profile upon which to build. But his image is more that of an establishment figure willing to compromise rather than a conservative maverick.
Some in the Republican base are unhappy with Ryan’s past support for comprehensive immigration reform. Also problematic was his Jan. 1, 2012, vote for the “fiscal cliff” legislation that included a tax hike on the wealthy. Ryan defended his position as prudent. If the bill had failed, everyone’s taxes would have gone up.
But even if some conservative activists are not happy with Ryan, rank-and-file GOP voters are. A Pew Research Center poll released July 31 showed Ryan with the best favorable ratings of any Republican 2016 contender – 65 percent favorable, 15 percent unfavorable among GOP voters.
Ryan will travel to Iowa Nov. 16 to deliver the keynote speech at Gov. Terry Branstad’s annual birthday fundraiser. That shows Ryan is keeping his options open for 2016, given Iowa’s role as home to the first nominating contest.
If Ryan does run, he would bring to the table national campaign experience and a sunny youthfulness. By 2016, being a member of Generation X won’t be a negative. He will be about the same age Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were when they were elected president.
One question is whether Ryan can make the leap directly from the House to the presidency. Plenty of sitting House members have run for president, but only one has succeeded (James Garfield). If he plans to run, he will have to work to maintain his national profile while playing a key role in the House.