By Scott Wong - 10/15/15 11:50 AM EDT
Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanTrump slams ObamaCare after premium hikes announced The Trail 2016: Who is really winning? Pelosi urges end to Pentagon's clawback of soldier overpayments MORE is seen as just a 50-50 bet to run for Speaker of the House after a week of pleading by his colleagues and GOP heavyweights.
The Wisconsin Republican is the overwhelming favorite to succeed outgoing Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerDems brace for immigration battle 56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race Trump may pose problem for Ryan in Speaker vote MORE (R-Ohio), but he’s given his GOP colleagues no signal that he even plans to seek the top post.
One GOP aide pegged the chances of Ryan launching a bid at 25 to 30 percent. A GOP lawmaker said Ryan probably would not run, while a second lawmaker who’s been closely following the contest predicted there’s a 50 percent chance Ryan jumps in.
If anything, a week after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stunned Washington by dropping out of the Speaker’s race, there’s more skepticism that Ryan can be convinced to take the job.
Republicans who spoke to The Hill said they’re pessimistic Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, will run. Taking the Speakership could mark the end of any White House aspirations he has.
The personal and political downsides are plentiful as well: Time away from his young family, having to relinquish his dream job as Ways and Means Committee chairman, and dealing with the same group of hardcore conservative agitators that drove out Boehner and dashed his close friend McCarthy’s dreams of becoming Speaker.
Conservatives off Capitol Hill are already giving Ryan a taste of what’s to come if he joins the race. The news outlet Breitbart published several articles blasting Ryan’s work on immigration reform, highlighting what they describe as his “two-decade record of pushing open borders.” The conservative activist, Phyllis Schlafly, warned that Ryan would be no different than Boehner.
And Tea Party groups launched a new website, FirePaulRyan.com, saying the wonky chairman is smart but not “qualified or conservative enough to lead the people’s House.”
“I think it would be a mistake for him personally, because I think they will try to destroy him,” said a GOP lawmaker who supports Ryan.
The 45-year-old probably won’t inform his colleagues about his final decision until the House returns next week. Until then, all the other candidates vying for the Speaker’s gavel are in wait-and-see mode.
“Everybody is in a holding pattern,” one of two declared Speaker candidates, Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), said in an interview. “We look forward to hearing definitively about what he will or will not do. I hope he does it. If he does, I’ll get behind it and support it.”
There are other indications Ryan may take a pass. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who secured the endorsement of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is plowing ahead with his Speaker’s bid, undeterred by the chorus of calls from the GOP establishment to unite behind Ryan.
And at least four senior Texas lawmakers — Reps. Bill Flores, Pete Sessions, Mike Conaway and Michael McCaul — have been jockeying for position, phoning colleagues and gingerly gauging support for their possible candidacies if Ryan opts out.
In an interview with KVUE-TV in Austin, McCaul said he believes he could unite a fractured GOP conference since he doesn't fall under any specific label or have "a lot of enemies out there."
“I think I'm the type of leader up there that could bring all these factions together, which I think is so desperately needed right now in our Congress,” said McCaul, who serves as Homeland Security Committee chairman.
Reps. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) are two others who are mulling over bids, while former Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) could eye a comeback. Even freshman Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) said he’s considering a bid.
Flores, the chairman of the 170-member Republican Study Committee, sent a lengthy letter to colleagues Wednesday outlining his qualifications for the job, including his three decades of private-sector experience. He said he planned to call each lawmaker to seek their advice, and urged them to call his cellphone if they wanted to quickly reach him.
“Obviously, the decision to lead our Conference and the ‘People's House’ is not one that should be taken lightly. Accordingly, I am praying for God's guidance in this regard and seeking the advice and counsel of my family, House colleagues, and friends,” Flores wrote in his letter.
“It is important for me to unequivocally state, however, that I will not run for this position should Chairman Ryan elect to run.”
A senior GOP lawmaker said the concerns the Wisconsin congressman is voicing publicly — time away from family, poor timing, a reluctance to give up a powerful committee gavel — are the same things he’s pointing to in private conversations with friends and colleagues.
The only certainty is that if Ryan declines to run, dozens of Republicans could toss their hat in the ring, plunging the 247-member GOP conference into absolute chaos.
“If Paul Ryan doesn’t take it, it is anybody’s guess what happens next. It is unchartered waters,” the senior lawmaker said. “Anybody who tells you they know where this is going either has a time machine or is kidding themselves.”