At a press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday, a reporter asked House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) if he's "quitting anytime soon." The Republican leader shook his head, chuckled, and replied, "No, I'm not."
The answer wasn't surprising, but it's worth taking a moment to understand why the question came up in the first place.
On Wednesday night, the HuffPost's Matt Fuller, who's very well sourced in Congress, quoted an unnamed Republican lawmaker saying, "There's a whole lot of rumors and speculation that the speaker may step aside." A number of other GOP lawmakers conceded they'd heard similar chatter.
Yesterday, Politico's Tim Alberta and Rachael Bade, who are also well sourced, moved the ball forward.
Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. [...]
In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker -- fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists -- not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.
AshLee Strong, a prominent spokesperson for Ryan, said in response to the report, "This is pure speculation. As the speaker himself said today, he's not going anywhere any time soon."
Of course, "soon" is a relative term. If the speaker were to retire after next year's midterms, he'd still have over a year in office remaining.
And while I'm generally reluctant to pay too much attention to Capitol Hill scuttlebutt -- either the speaker will retire or he won't, and we'll all find out soon enough -- I also think it's worth appreciating why this week's reporting on Ryan's future is so easy to believe.