Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan has decided against a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by 22-year incumbent Democrat Herb Kohl. I spoke with him a few minutes ago, and he had this to say about remaining as the House Budget Committee chair:
“To me, it was obvious — I wanted to stay where I could matter the most, where I can have the biggest impact on the biggest issue of our time, which is the country’s dire fiscal state. It wasn’t appealing for me to start from scratch in seniority over in the Senate. It just doesn’t make any sense for me to move at this time, and every one of the friends and family members I talked to agreed 100 percent with that assessment.”
Ryan says he spoke with former governor and HHS secretary Tommy Thompson over the weekend about Thompson’s desire to get into the race if Ryan didn’t. Ryan describes Thompson as having been very “gracious” and “deferential,” and says he knows Thompson is “very interested” in jumping into the race to succeed Kohl. (Thompson turned down the opportunity to take on incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold in 2010, a seat that was won by Republican upstart Ron Johnson.)
As to whether Thompson would back his proposed sweeping changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, Ryan says Thompson “has already embraced our reforms,” pointing out that Thompson knows the Medicare issue back to front as a former HHS secretary.
Aside from Thompson, Ryan believes there is a “deep bench of very capable Republicans” ready to run, and he is “very confident” the GOP will take the seat. He rattles off a number of Democrats he has heard might run — former senator Russ Feingold, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, former congressman Steve Kagan — but he says he believes a Republican would ultimately win.
— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.