I think it got a little more difficult for him the last couple of weeks. The S&P downgrade and general economic turmoil have made it clearer that competence will be part of the Republican case against Obama and it’s easier for a candidate with executive experience to make it. Also, Perry’s entry complicates things for him. If it were shaping up as a Bachmann v. Romney race, there would be a clear opening for Ryan. Now, it’s harder to see his running room. Still, I think he would a great addition to the field. He’d obviously be substantive, and he truly does have, in that over-used phrase, a first-class temperament. Has anyone ever seen him flustered or angry?
Things would have to break just right for him, but it’s a volatile year and it’s not unimaginable that the race could look much different than anyone is predicting right now. Could Romney begin to get squeezed out if both Perry and Ryan are eating into his establishment support? Could Bachmann fade? Who knows? I know this sounds very unappealing at the moment, but Ryan could occupy the Pawlenty space in the field, or what seemed as though it would be the Pawlenty space — the potential consensus candidate from the Upper Midwest. If Ryan ever wants to run for president, he should definitely do it now. He’d handle himself well, and there’s no qualification for running for president in Republican politics quite like having run for president before. He’d have a leg up in 2016 if Republicans don’t win in 2012. And one of Obama’s lessons is to run even when it’s “too soon” . . . because you just never know.