Republican Party nominates Paul Ryan to run for President, he rejects
After a month of speculation and pleas ranging fromcomic to mildly desperate, Speaker Paul D. Ryan held an unusually formal news conference Tuesday afternoon to rule out what he has always said he would not do: serve as the Republican nominee for president in 2016.
“Let me be clear,” Mr. Ryan said, addressing reporters at the Republican National Committee’s headquarters. “I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination of our party.”
He then offered a strong opinion to convention delegates about how they should proceed in the case of a contested nomination: “If no candidate has the majority on the first ballot, I believe you should only turn to a person who has participated in the primary. Count me out.”
Speculation about Mr. Ryan’s intentions has escalated in recent weeks as large segments of the Republican Party are in despair over its two leading candidates, Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a state of play that Mr. Ryan’s aides say has become an increasing distraction. But in some ways, the speaker’s staff had added to that speculation, producing one campaign-style video depicting Mr. Ryan as an above-the-fray politician seeking a “battle of ideas” and another as a ready-on-Day-1 leader taking a tour of the Middle East.
The circus surrounding what in any other year would be a statement of the obvious — a newly installed speaker of the House does not wish to undo the will of thousands of voters and delegates in the dark of night at his party’s convention — is simply the latest strange turn in a race replete with them. And with each twist, it seemed, more Republicans not aligned with Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz saw an elegant solution in Mr. Ryan. On Tuesday, he said he would have none of it.
“I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee — to be the president — you should actually run for it,” said Mr. Ryan, who will be the convention chairman. “I chose not to. Therefore, I should not be considered. Period. I just think it would be wrong to go any other way.”
By coming down so firmly against drafting a new candidate in Cleveland — the most coveted white knight denouncing the very idea — Mr. Ryan made it less likely that the party would risk the backlash from supporters of Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz that would come from such a maneuver.
But if Mr. Ryan was emphatic that Republicans should not attempt to find a new candidate — or at least one who did not run for the presidency this election season — he also again made clear that he hoped to thwart many of Mr. Trump’s ideas, if stopping short of actually opposing him on a ballot.
“From his policies to his tone, I think Ryan is looking toward what the future of the party is going to look like, post-Donald Trump,” said Liesl Hickey, a veteran congressional aide and former executive director of the House Republican campaign committee.
Mr. Trump struck a wary note about Mr. Ryan’s announcement, pointing out during an appearance in Rome, N.Y., that Mr. Ryan had insisted last year that he did not want the speaker’s job, only to eventually accept his party’s entreaties. “We’ll see,” Mr. Trump said. “I take him at his word. But we’ll have to watch, see what happens.”
Mr. Ryan could have easily reiterated his oft-stated denials about the presidency through a clearly worded news release. But by choosing to appear before the cameras and in front of four American flags at the Republican National Committee, the speaker purposefully used the moment to call for a different, sunnier brand of conservatism than the grievance-oriented politics that have propelled Mr. Trump to the top of the Republican race.
“I believe we can once again be that optimistic party that is defined by a belief in the limitless possibility of our people,” he said.
Although senior Republicans like former Speaker John A. Boehner and Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah have mentioned Mr. Ryan as a potential alternative, there has been a slow burn of resistance to the idea over the past week. Many Republicans worry that Mr. Ryan’s policy ideas, notably on immigration, are out of step with the Republican base and would inflame chaos in the party. And worst of all, Mr. Ryan could lose in the fall.
Mr. Ryan’s remarks come just days after he returned from a trip to the Middle East, where he visited with foreign leaders, and where gossip trailed him. “It’s amazing how closely our politics is followed overseas,” he said. “I was asked about it everywhere I went. I’m also aware that while I was overseas, there was more speculation that someone other than the current candidates will emerge as our party’s nominee. I want to put that to rest once and for all.”
Mr. Ryan has repeatedly denounced several contentious statements made by Mr. Trump in this campaign, but he has also said he would support whomever voters picked. Instead, he is focusing on a policy agenda in the House he hopes the eventual nominee will support.
Many Republicans expect that if Mr. Trump prevails, Mr. Ryan will avoid directly helping him, choosing instead to shore up vulnerable House Republicans, particularly those trying to distance themselves from Mr. Trump.
When it was pointed out to Mr. Ryan that he also denied his desire to become speaker last year, Mr. Ryan said the comparison was “apples and oranges.” But he did add, “Not running does not mean I am going to disappear.”
Without mentioning Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Ryan once again denounced the businessman’s approach to the race and the response to it across the country. “Politics today tends to drift toward personality contests, not policy contests,” he said, and once again made a pitch for House Republicans to shape their own policy agenda.
The speaker’s effort to present himself, and the House, as something close to a Republican antidote to Mr. Trump may be wishful thinking if the front-runner becomes the standard-bearer. Presidential nominees command more attention from the public than congressional leaders, and Mr. Trump has already proved that he can shape the political debate.
But whether it is as speaker or future presidential candidate, Mr. Ryan is positioning himself as a beacon of opposition to Mr. Trump’s policies and style of politics.
“Insults get more ink than ideas,” Mr. Ryan said. “But we still owe it to the country to show what we would do if given a mandate from the people.”
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