Washington — Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is widely seen as one of the rising stars in the GOP. But don’t look for him in Iowa or New Hampshire anytime soon. At a press breakfast this morning, he continued to rule out a 2012 presidential run. He did not, however, dismiss talk of being a vice-presidential candidate.
On presidential aspirations, Ryan joked that he would not talk in “suicidal terms” like Gov. Chris Christie (R., N.J.). But he firmly believes that he can “do more for the country and the cause where I am right now.” Besides, he chuckled, “my head is not that big and my kids are too small.”
“You would have to spend a year and a half running around the country in nice states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, but they’re not Janesville, Wisconsin,” Ryan said. “Our kids are six, seven, and nine. I want to be in their lives. I’m away from them four days a week on average. I don’t want to be away from them seven days a week for two years.”
With regard to being tapped for the veep slot, “I’ll think about that when it’s time to think about that,” Ryan said. “I want to get this budget right. I want to get 2011 right, which is: we owe the country a choice of alternatives. That’s my total focus.”
What about his Badger State colleague Gov. Scott Walker? Will he jump into the GOP primary? Ryan doesn’t think so. “Wisconsin is going to be an important state for sure,” he said. Still, “I don’t think Scott will run. He just got the job. I highly doubt that he would run . . . he wants to fix Wisconsin.”
Ryan, for his part, hopes to help frame the 2012 debate. “To me, what matters most is [nominating] somebody that really has conviction in their heart and mind, these core principles,” he said. “We can’t just give it to the next person in line, or have a personality contest. We will lose a personality contest. We will win an ideas contest. I want to make sure it’s somebody who really has conviction and articulation of ideas.”
“In the last two weeks I’ve talked to Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, kind of the gamut of these folks,” he added. “We have got a lot of innovative governors out there. My assumption is that a lot of them will throw their hat into the ring.”
But for now, Ryan will hold off on an endorsement. “It is going to be such a big field that I think it is too early to get involved,” he says. “I’ve talked to every one of the prospective [candidates], some more than others. I don’t really have a strong preference right now. I want to wait and see what these people are made of and what they’re going to talk about.”
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney should not expect much support. Ryan was not shy about criticizing the Bay State’s health-care program, which Romney spearheaded. “It’s not that dissimilar to Obamacare,” he said. “And you probably know I’m not a big fan of Obamacare. I just don’t think that mandates work.” RomneyCare, he worries, is “beginning to death spiral.”
Ryan’s comments came at a small press conference organized by The American Spectator and Americans for Tax Reform.