Paul Ryan and those in his close-knit political orbit have long shunned prognosticating about the speaker’s political ambitions. Young kids. Unpredictable political climate. And the speakership is a tough job.
But the speaker’s allies have become keenly aware of his precarious political future, the daunting challenge of governing under a President Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, and the rough task of rebuilding a GOP that many Hill Republicans believe has been overrun by anti-free trade populists who favor bombastic bomb-throwing over thoughtful policy discussions. All while weighing the possibility of his own bid for president, which Ryan did not rule out in a speech on Wednesday.
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Whether he goes that route or not, Ryan is likely in for a tumultous next few years. If Trump wins and Ryan retains the speakership, the Wisconsin Republican will be forced to continue to wedge his positions into Trump’s alternate Republican universe.
If Clinton wins, Ryan will have to preside over a slimmed Republican majority, more heavily populated with burn-the-house-down conservatives. He’ll have to cut deals and do business with Hillary Clinton — a woman he’s met with privately just twice — while at the same time keeping conservatives content.
It’s a governing scenario that people close to him are beginning to envision, according to multiple sources in his political orbit — and not a particularly pleasant one.
Indeed, the challenge for Ryan of selling a policy agenda and building out his vision of the Republican Party, while dealing with the whack-a-mole nature of everyday governance, is daunting.
“I think at the end of the day, it will be Paul Ryan’s biggest challenge,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said of rebuilding the Republican brand while governing the House.
Ryan’s “Better Way” …