A veteran lawmaker and close ally of Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanPence: 'Every day ObamaCare survives is another day America suffers' Priebus, Price facing blame after healthcare failure: report Report: Bannon wanted to use healthcare vote to make 'enemies list' 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.”
“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 TrumpDe Blasio blames Trump for 'dynamic of hatred' in US Dem to Trump: 'You truly are an evil man' Melania Trump appears solo at GOP fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago MORE and Ted CruzTed CruzHow 'Big Pharma' stifles pharmaceutical innovation AIPAC must reach out to President Trump Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support 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.”
The interview with Cole airs Sunday at both 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET on C-SPAN.