House Speaker Ryan sounds nice but doesn’t GOP Nominee Paul Ryan sound better?

Why the Republican Establishment may have missed an opportunity by backing Paul Ryan for Speaker.

If there is truly a Republican Establishment and if it just turned Paul Ryan into the Speaker of the House, why didn’t it aim higher? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the Republican Establishment to go straight at the big problem and make Ryan the GOP nominee?

Surely someone, somewhere was pushing that scheme. It makes a ton of sense, on paper. But the party has had trouble matching what makes sense on paper with what happens in practice lately. Still, the stunning Ryan Moment raises tantalizing “what ifs.”

If Ryan had decided early on to go for the nomination, would he have suffered the same Lilliput effect as the other insider candidates? Would he have been made to look puny aside the outsider giants Carson and Trump who, so far, have been seen through a separate and special lens? Does Ryan look so attractive to Republicans now precisely because he didn’t climb on the monkey bars? Perhaps.

The Republican Establishment, if it really exists, is reported to feel shocked and awful about the state of the nomination campaign. Of course, it does. At the moment, Marco Rubio is said to be the only candidate the Establishment thinks is viable and acceptable. There could be a Bush resurrection. But Paul Ryan looks twice as attractive as either of those guys right now. In fact, who would be a better candidate against Hillary Clinton than Paul Ryan?

Of course, it isn’t accurate to say the Republican Establishment orchestrated Ryan’s ascent to the Speaker’s podium. He was their dream candidate, but it wasn’t their clout and whip alone that got him elected. The bigger factor was that a faction of the Freedom Caucus, the retrenched right-wing of the House GOP, recalculated their self-interest after Boehner and then Kevin McCarthy scampered from the playground; they decided that prolonged chaos politically trumped their other crusades.

Ryan still faces a Lilliput Effect. His risk is that herding and reforming renegade House Republicans may be impossible and will thus diminish him. It’s hard to be a savior for long in politics.

There is a middle road between messiah and disaster. With a budget deal in place, Ryan should be able to avoid ritual government shutdown escapades for the next year. Congress is in campaign mode and the president is a lame duck. It could be a very quiet year ahead in Congress, a year of regular order.

If a Republican does win the general election next year, Ryan may have missed his shot at the White House but may have the chance and power to legislate. If the Republicans lose, who will stand taller in the party than Paul Ryan?

The question for the Republican Establishment is whether they blew it by not getting on the Paul Ryan Express earlier.

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