Republican Speaker of the House from Wisconsin Paul Ryan waits to deliver a speech in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington D.C., on March 23, 2016.
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Paul Ryan stokes presidential chatter with campaign-style video

Here’s a simple rule: if you don’t want people to think you’re running for president, don’t do things that presidential candidates do.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), for example, is aware of the fact that some Republicans – and some GOP mega-donors – much prefer him to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for the party’s 2016 ticket. Ryan is also aware of the fact that those same supporters may try to exploit a contested Republican convention to nominate someone who didn’t actually seek the office.
In response to this chatter, the House Speaker is only too pleased to tell reporters, “I’m not running for president.” And yet, if the Wisconsin congressman wants to quash the speculation about his ambitions, Ryan should probably stop taking the kind of steps a prospective candidate might take. TPM reported this morning that the Republican leader has released a new “swelling, optimistic video laying out his policy plans.”
In the video, dubbed “Politics These Days,” Ryan bemoans the polarized state of American politics.
“What really bothers me the most about politics these days is this notion of identity politics: that we’re going to win an election by dividing people, rather than inspiring people,” Ryan says in a speech delivered to an audience of House interns. […] “So let’s have a battle of ideas. Let’s have a contest of whose ideas are better and why our ideas are better,” he concludes, as inspirational music soars.
Videos like these aren’t uncommon – but they tend to be released by national figures who have their eyes on the Oval Office.
Maybe Paul Ryan is trying to create a distinct platform for House Republicans in order to keep them separate from the party’s presidential ticket. Maybe the Speaker, who’s spent years talking about the need for the GOP majority on the Hill to come up with some kind of governing agenda, is taking the next step towards an elusive goal.
Or maybe the nation’s highest ranking Republican officeholder is subtly trying to stoke the 2016 fires so they don’t go out.
Ryan is many things, but blind to political circumstances isn’t one of them. I’ve long been skeptical about his White House plans, but for him to launch a p.r. push like this, against the backdrop of Beltway chatter about a presidential nomination, is making me re-think those assumptions.
Yes, the Speaker has said he’s not running, but as regular readers know, Ryan said the same thing about his current job – right before he accepted it.
If the Wisconsin lawmaker wants to end the scuttlebutt, he can do so with relative ease. First, Ryan can make a Shermanesque statement about his 2016 plans. Second, he can stop doing the kinds of things presidential hopefuls do. Until then, the chatter will continue, which may very well be exactly what the Speaker wants.