Ryan has spent the past few days consulting with his family, which to the most jaded of political observers may sound like a talking point. But it is his family that will be impacted the most should he become the next speaker.
The truth is that the speaker position is grueling, with travel and demands that often put you at odds with what's best for family. Maybe you're asking yourself, "If Mitt Romney were elected, wouldn't Ryan, as vice president, have devoted just as much time to being away from family?" In short, no. The one sacrifice would have been moving his family to Washington. But the speaker position is a different animal.
For a start, the speaker is in constant demand, working with leaders from both parties. As a result, he or she must constantly manage the needs of a rank-and-file that's becoming more and more demanding.
Then there are the demands outside of Washington, D.C.
Paul Ryan would have to be on the road more than a touring rock band that drops a new album every year. And don't forget (the lesson from Eric Cantor's speakership
), he also has to represent the people at home that elected him as their representative. The seeming expectation that the speaker can be in multiple places at the same time underscores just how much his family life will be impacted.
And because I am no longer an elected member of Congress, and will not be running for a seat again, I can go beyond family talk and say some things other politicians can't.
While touring around like a rock star, Ryan will be expected to raise tens of millions of dollars. Hell, with his star power, and with a presidential election bearing down on us, he might be looking at hundreds of millions. He will be working the circuit of rubber chicken meals to talking policy with everyone from grassroots organizations in the South to CEOs in Silicon Valley.
But as well as the job at hand, every politician -- Ryan included -- will need to think about his or her political future. For example, will Paul Ryan return to Wisconsin and run for governor? Or will he run for president?
From a political perspective, Ryan has everything to lose and little to gain. After all, by becoming speaker of the House, he essentially becomes a symbolic figure representing and speaking for Congress, which has an approval rating somewhere between a colonoscopy and a root canal.
Make no mistake about it, Paul Ryan would make a fantastic speaker of the House. He has qualities that many other House Republicans simply don't, including the ability to bring together different factions of the party. And even among Democrats, Ryan has a quality that is virtually unique among Republicans in the House -- he is thoroughly respected by them.
On a personal note, Paul Ryan has a huge heart and was very supportive of me while I was in Congress, including during my well-documented ups and downs.
Still, even with all these glowing reviews, and as much as I hate to say it, there may be one more reason why he shouldn't run. America is in an angry funk, and so is the entire institution of Congress. It's the definition of a no-win situation. As a result, the very thing that makes Paul so special -- his care of country and respect of colleagues -- is exactly the thing that could be his undoing.
For the sake of his family, I hope he doesn't run for House speaker. For the sake of the Congress and House Republicans, I hope he does.