Ryan Won't Run in 2016 as Romney Moves Toward Third Bid

Ryan Won't Run in 2016 as Romney Moves Toward Third Bid
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CONCORD, N.H. -- Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan ruled out a presidential campaign in 2016 on Monday.

Meanwhile, Ryan's former running mate, Mitt Romney, worked rapidly behind the scenes to begin assembling the pieces for a third White House bid that had once seemed implausible.

Taken in tandem, Ryan and Romney's moves have reshaped dramatically the early contours of the race for financial support among wide swaths of the Republican establishment, which had only recently been seen as likely to rally en masse around the prospective candidacy of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

"After giving it a lot of thought, I've decided not to run for president,” Ryan said in a statement to RealClearPolitics. “Our work at the House Ways and Means Committee over the next few years will be crucial to moving America forward, and my job as chairman deserves undivided attention.”

Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee, had been considering a potential presidential bid but told NBC News, which broke the news of his decision not to mount a campaign, that he reached his decision over the holidays.

In the statement, Ryan said that he planned to continue to “lay out conservative solutions and to help our nominee lead us to victory.”

The news that Ryan will not run comes as the drumbeat for a potential third Mitt Romney presidential campaign picked up significantly last Friday and over the weekend with the would-be candidate himself leading the charge.

After telling donors in New York City that he was indeed considering another White House run, Romney spent the weekend calling former strategists, political allies and neutral parties to reiterate that information and to seek their counsel, according to multiple Republican sources.

A former Romney campaign adviser told RCP that the 2012 Republican nominee had previously been urging Ryan—his former running mate—to take a shot at the presidency in 2016.

But with Ryan bowing out, Romney has apparently decided that he is the best man for the job.

In private conversations, according to GOP sources, Romney has expressed reservations about the strength of the prospective 2016 GOP presidential field and has not lost his desire to attain the nation’s highest office, which he has spent most of the last decade seeking.

Tom Rath, a longtime Romney adviser and New Hampshire-based Republican strategist, is among those expressing public support for the former Massachusetts governor, should he decide to run again.

“He has the validation of a lot of Republican voters and party types all around the country for what he did in January ’13 to the election in ’14,” Rath said of Romney’s post-defeat machinations. “This is not a country where you’ve got to get it right the first time. It’s great if you do, but we’re big into reinvention.”

According to Rath, Romney needs to make a decision soon, and any attempt to enter the race late in the game as a “savior” for a fractured Republican Party likely would be doomed to failure.

“Nobody is smart enough, savvy enough, or lucky enough to have all the breaks go their way so there’s suddenly an opportunity for you,” Rath said in shooting down the potential for a late Romney entry. “This is a job you have to earn.”

New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, which Romney won easily in 2012, would provide the first significant opportunity for the former Massachusetts governor on the 2016 electoral calendar.

But in a GOP field that is likely to be much stronger than it was four years ago, his challenges here are manifest.

Romney could face particularly tough competition in New Hampshire, not only from Bush, but also from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both of whom are weighing White House bids and would enter the race with reason to believe that the state could be a cornerstone of their campaigns.

Rand Paul is slated for a full day of campaign events in New Hampshire on Wednesday and has already taken steps over the last several months to build on the base that his father, Ron Paul, established here in 2008 and 2012.

Still, no other potential GOP contender enjoys the level of familiarity and deep-seated institutional support that Romney has in the Granite State.

“New Hampshire more than any other state certainly has some of the most loyal Romney supporters,” said Republican strategist Ryan Williams, a veteran of both the 2008 and 2012 Romney campaigns. “If he runs again, he’ll have to earn it, but people have fond memories of Mitt in New Hampshire.”

Ryan, in the interview with NBC, offered some tacit support of his own for Romney, though he was careful not to get ahead of himself.

"It is no secret that I have always thought Mitt would make a great president," he said. "As for his plans for 2016, I don't know what he is ultimately going to do and the last thing I want to do is get ahead of his own decision making process." 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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