Paul Ryan says he won't run in 2016 if Mitt Romney does. Is that a hint?

Romney's former running mate say he won't run if the former Massachusetts governor decides for a third try at the White House. Does this mean Ryan suspects Romney might be preparing to get the gang back together for 2016?

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/File
Former Massachusetts Gov. and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (r.) shakes hands with his former vice-presidential running mate US Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin before interviewing Ryan about his new book in Chicago, Aug. 21, 2014.

Paul Ryan says he won’t run for president in 2016 if his old friend Mitt Romney mounts another effort to win the Oval Office.

“I would support Mitt. If he were to run, I would not,” Representative Ryan (R) of Wisconsin told the HuffPost Live Tuesday.

Ryan, former Governor Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012, said he hasn’t made up his mind what he’ll do if Romney doesn’t enter the race. Some top Republican figures are pressing Ryan to consider a White House campaign, but so far he hasn’t seemed very eager about the prospect.

“That’s something I’m going to decide in 2015,” he said.

Does this mean Ryan suspects that the Mittster might be preparing to get the gang back together and try again for the presidency?

Maybe. He wouldn’t be alone. Washington conventional wisdom used to be that there was no way Romney would risk another try, despite the rumblings. Now there’s a sort of surprised fascination in the subject, since Romney himself keeps opening the door, a bit.

“We’ve got a lot of people looking at the race. We’ll see what happens,” said Romney in a widely cited New York Times Magazine piece on Sunday.

And it just might work. At Vox today, Andrew Prokop lists the reasons why Romney 2016 might make sense. Among them: There’s not a clear GOP frontrunner, and Romney is already well-known among his party’s donors and voters.

“Romney 2016 isn’t being taken as seriously as it deserves to be,” Mr. Prokop writes.

There’s probably loyalty at work in Ryan’s deferral to a possible Romney run. Mitt’s the man who gave him a chance at the highest level of US politics.

But there’s cold calculation there, as well. The Republican establishment – which includes most of the GOP House leadership, from Speaker Boehner on down – will likely coalesce around a single candidate to try and defeat the party’s insurgent wing.

“With the Republican field as open as it is, it would make sense for policy demanders to unite around Romney to head off a more divisive insurgent candidacy from someone like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul,” writes Julia Azari, an assistant professor of political science at Marquette University, on the Mischiefs of Faction political blog.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush might be the establishment’s first choice. But as Vox’s Prokop notes, a Bush run is looking increasingly unlikely. He’s seen as soft on immigration by many GOP primary voters. There are questions in the party as to whether the nation is ready for a third Bush president.

Ryan himself might be a second choice. But there’s talk Ryan’s real goal is the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee – historically one of the nation’s most powerful legislative posts.

Then there’s Romney. He’s tanned and rested, if not ready. Some in the party think he’d match well against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in terms of gravitas and experience.

But he’s got baggage, no doubt. His 2012 run was kind of a mess, he’d again symbolize the wealthy businessperson side of the party, and he’s not exactly a dynamic retail campaigner.

“He should not run for president a third time,” writes conservative Jennifer Rubin on her Right Turn blog at The Washington Post.

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