When Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced he wouldn’t run for re-election this fall, it surprised some (who saw him as a next-generation party leader) but didn’t exactly shock others (amid predictions of a Democratic takeover of Congress in the midterms, the unfolding of the Russia investigation and the recollection that he took the Speaker job basically under duress).
The 48-year-old, who has never had a full-time job outside of government, hasn’t said what he plans to do. In that vacuum, there are rumors that Paul Ryan will run for president in 2020. Here’s what we know about their validity so far.
Will Paul Ryan run for president in 2020?
The idea is dramatic: Ryan — who has publicly supported President Trump but expressed frustration with him behind the scenes — goes home to rest up, then mounts a primary challenge to Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination. If he’s still in office. In the event that Trump is removed or resigns, Ryan could be drafted once again, this time to lead the Republican ticket.
How realistic is that? The most definitive statement we have is from Ryan himself. “I’m not going to run for president,” he said in April. At that time, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he wouldn’t run for another elected office. Of course, politicians’ denials about seeking a bigger gig have become so frequent — and are so frequently untrue — that “I’m not going to run” essentially means, “We’ll see.”
The conservative Washington Times believes that Ryan could grab the nomination from Trump with the right strategy: “Trump has shown that he can defeat establishment-approved, well-funded Republicans when he faced down Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and the other 14 nominees in the 2016 primary,” it says. “However, if Ryan positions himself right and is able to knock away John Kasich, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake and any other GOP back-benchers who have starry-eyed notions of challenging Trump, he could very well defeat the incumbent president in a one-on-one primary challenge.”
In other words: Stranger things have happened. And they’re happening so often that it’s impossible to predict what the 2020 GOP leadership will look like.