The problem for Ryan is that this is his umpteenth statement on the matter, and it isn’t certain why this announcement will be any more likely to stop mainstream conservatives’ wishful thinking. Ryan will probably continue to field accusations that the speaker doth protest too much until another candidate is named the Republican nominee. Even then, the dream of a Ryan candidacy will remain a specter over the presidential race.
After all, the pro-Ryan crowd has seen this all before: Ryan, now famously, demurred over calls that he should run for House speaker after John Boehner announced his retirement last fall. When he finally announced, in late October, that he’d be open to running, Ryan reminded reporters this whole thing wasn’t his idea. “This is not a job I’ve ever wanted, I’ve ever sought,” he said. “I came to the conclusion that this is a very dire moment, not just for Congress, not just for the Republican Party, but for our country.” Ryan for President supporters could easily point to this statement as evidence their guy might be drafted again in the future. The Congress, his party, and the country are all still fractured. Ryan doesn’t want the presidency, he’s never sought the presidency, but they hope he’ll take it anyway.
Ryan, with a resigned smile, brushed off a reporter’s suggestion that this is speaker’s-race deja vu. “Apples and oranges,” Ryan said. “Being speaker of the House is a far cry from being president of the United States … That is entirely different than getting the nomination for president of the United States by your party without even running for the job.” He even encouraged establishing a convention rule that only candidates who ran in the primary can be nominated.
Some of his colleagues have shown support for a potential Ryan candidacy. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said late last month that some delegates at the convention might be looking for a “consensus figure,” and there Ryan would be. “Frankly, he does represent the kind of vision and values that as a Republican you would want to put forward,” he said. New York’s Peter King said Ryan would be the “best choice” if the nomination “does go to a candidate who is not in the race.” Carlos Curbelo of Florida told The Hill he’s “always all-in for Paul Ryan—today, tomorrow and in 2020.”
Ryan’s denials have been near-constant—and there have been at least 18 of them since December, by The Washington Post’s count. While on a recent congressional delegation to Israel, Ryan told The Times of Israel he had a “lots of reasons” not to run, including the GOP’s “deep bench” of candidates and his young family. He said candidates for president should run a full campaign: “I think you should start in Iowa and run to the tape.” To conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt early last week, Ryan again reiterated that he’s staying in his current job. “I do believe people put my name in this thing, and I say, ‘Get my name out of that,’” he said.