Paul Ryan vehemently denied reports he's not going to be in Congress after 2018
But he also said he hasn't decided if he's running for reelection
We offer here the very different reactions we’ve seen from House Speaker Paul Ryan in his future over the last few days.
The signals are decidedly mixed from Ryan, triumphant over his first big legislative victory as speaker and arguably the biggest Republican policy victory in a generation.
On the one hand, his camp forcefully rejected the notion that he would leave his powerful role as Speaker. But then during a television victory lap, Ryan wouldn’t say if he’s running for reelection.
What’s going on here is simple. Despite their very big week with passage of a huge buffet of tax cuts, Republicans are running into some very stiff headwinds in 2018.
Ryan, who prides himself on being a policy wonk, who has also been his party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012 and found a way to be begged into the job of speaker when John Boehner retired, is an even more accomplished politician.
Witness these very conflicting pieces of information we’ve learned over the span of less than a week:
December 14 - Reports suggest Ryan will leave Congress in 2018
Politico got the ball rolling with a report sourced to “three dozen people who know the speaker” and who don’t think he’s going to be on Congress after the midterm election.
Here’s the key paragraph from Politico:
Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker — fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists — not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.
CNN’s John King, Deirdre Walsh and Phil Mattingly picked up the baton with their own report that mirrored Politico’s and suggested Ryan was seriously considering stepping aside if he could pass tax reform because he’s suffering a bout of what they called “Trump-haustion” (it’s a thing).
The reaction to the reports was swift and unequivocal.
“I ain’t goin’ anywhere,” Ryan told reporters while exiting the Capitol when asked about the retirement rumors, according to the CNN report.
“This is pure speculation,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement. “As the speaker himself said today, he’s not going anywhere any time soon.”
Except maybe it was equivocal.
December 20 - On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” George Stephanopoulos asked the question a different way and got a very different response.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Lots of speculation you’re going step down as speaker at the end of the year and I know you said you’ll be around for a long time, but are you committed to running for re-election to your House seat and to speaker?” Stephanopoulos asked. Here’s what Ryan said.
RYAN: Yeah, look. So I’m not going anywhere any time soon. I’m so focused on getting our agenda done. On questions on way down the line I’ll address those way down the line. But in the meantime, we have a lot of work to do. I’m here to stay. I’m not going anywhere. lf something changes I’ll address it down the road in the future I’ll address it down the road in the future.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you haven’t decided to run for re-election yet?
RYAN: I haven’t even - It’s not even 2018 yet so that’s something my wife and I always discuss later in the campaign year, something we haven’t discussed yet. That’s something we’ll discuss down the road when the appropriate time comes.
So which is it? If he’s “not going anywhere any time soon” how can he also not have decided if he’s running for reelection in 2018? What exactly do the words “way down the line” mean in Ryan time?
Calendar notes: 2018 is, as of this writing, 11 days away. The filing deadline to be included in a Wisconsin congressional primary is June 1, 2018. At 5 p.m.
But it’s telling that someone who isn’t going anywhere says he hasn’t thought about re-election yet.
What Ryan did there is politician 101 for keeping your options open. Big time.