After saying for weeks that he had no interest in the job, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced Thursday night that he is running to be the next Speaker of the House after all. However, one political observer says the Wisconsin Republican’s decision to seek the post should not be seen as evidence that he was planning to make the move all along.
Marquette University Political Scientist Charles Franklin says Ryan entered the race only after it became clear that House Republicans were running out of other options who were capable of satisfying a majority of the party. “Faced with that, and with no other clear alternative, Ryan was the member most acceptable across the three major factions.”
Ryan declared his candidacy after picking up support from within those conservative circles, as part of a stated requirement that he would only take the job if the party could unify behind him. While he did not win the endorsement of the House Freedom Caucus, Franklin says enough members are backing him to give Ryan the votes needed to win.
As for how Ryan emerged as the unity candidate, Franklin attributes his rise to bringing a “certain pragmatism with his conservatism.” He says the former vice presidential nominee has a focus on getting things done and an endgame on legislation, along with a conservative voting record that puts him to the right of the party. “I think that’s what’s appealing to other Republicans, who may be more moderate than Ryan himself…but see in his pragmatism, something that is certainly preferable to the firebrands on the right who are willing to shut the government down,” Franklin says.
A leadership election has been set for next week. While some conservatives remain vocal critics of Ryan becoming speaker, Franklin says he clearly has the support that’s needed at this point to win the vote of House Republicans.