Ryan ally: Speaker could be 'figure of destiny' and possible GOP nominee

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A veteran lawmaker and close ally of Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Overnight Finance: GOP faces dilemma on spending bills | CEOs push Congress on tax rules | Trump talks energy MORE suggested Thursday the Wisconsin Republican could be a “figure of destiny” and possibly capture the GOP nomination in a chaotic contested convention.

“I take him at his word. I don’t think he has any desire to be the presidential nominee. If he did, he would have run for it,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said in an interview on C-SPAN's “Newsmakers.” “But sometimes you can be a figure of destiny, and he was very much that in the Speaker’s race.”

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Last fall, after then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return MORE (R-Ohio) resigned and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly dropped out of the race to replace him, many GOP colleagues turned to Ryan. He resisted at first, but after a week of deliberation, he finally agreed and won the top job in the House.

“Frankly, it became evident he really was the only person that could have united the conference, gotten us through the end of last year, and got us off to a decent start this year,” Cole said.

For his part, Ryan, 46, has repeatedly said there is no scenario in which he will emerge from this summer’s Cleveland convention as the GOP nominee. As the ceremonial chairman of the July gathering, he said it’s his job to remain as neutral as Switzerland as his party picks its standard-bearer.

But many establishment Republicans are growing increasingly frustrated with the leading presidential contenders, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSanders mocks ‘tough guy’ Trump for changing mind on debate 35 arrested in clashes outside Trump rally Clinton email headache is about to get worse MORE and Ted CruzTed CruzMcConnell: Trump White House will have ‘constraints’ Cruz holds back support for Trump with eye on abortion Trump takes victory lap over rivals' remarks MORE. And they’re continuing to float the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee as a possible dark horse candidate in the event no one secures the requisite 1,237 delegates before the four-day Cleveland confab kicks off.

“Look, he’s already been vetted, he’s been on a national ticket, millions of people have already voted for him in that regard, we know how he performs,” said Cole, a former House GOP campaign chairman. “I don’t think there’s a person in politics that doesn’t like or respect Paul Ryan. Even people that disagree with him like him as a person.

“And frankly, he does represent the kind of vision and values, as a Republican, you would want to put forward,” Cole said, just a day after Ryan gave a high-profile speech decrying the “ugliness” of the 2016 presidential race.

“So if we have a chaotic situation at a convention, there is a chance that he or somebody else could emerge,” Cole continued. “As a big Paul Ryan fan, I certainly would be happy to see something like that happen. But for that to happen, it literally has to happen on its own, and we did see that in the Speaker’s race.”

Just last week, Boehner said he would back his successor to be the GOP nominee if the delegates are deadlocked in Cleveland and voting goes to a second ballot. 

The interview with Cole airs Sunday at both 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET on C-SPAN.   

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