Speaker of the House and Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan made it clear to the Republican Party telling them not to dream of President Ryan in 2016. On Tuesday afternoon, April 12, 2016, Ryan addressed the party in a press conference from the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington, DC that he will not accept any nomination for president at a contested convention. As none of the candidates are poised to clinch the 1237 delegates needed, those among the establishment have been dreaming of Ryan as the consensus candidate in what will probably be a contested convention.
Speaking from the GOP’s headquarters, Ryan repeated a sentence others in history have used before him to make it clear they have no intention to run for president. Ryan stated, “Let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept the nomination for our party.” For Ryan the talk about possibly being nominated has been distracting for his current job as Speaker f the house, “We have too much work to do in the House to allow this speculation to swirl or have my motivations questioned.”
The phrase Ryan used is called the “Sherman(esque) statement” is named after Civil War hero General William Tecumseh Sherman declining to be the Republican candidate in 1884. Then Sherman stated, “I hereby state, and mean all that I say, that I never have been and never will be a candidate for President; that if nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to serve.”
President Lyndon Johnson most famously invoked the statement in 1968 when he refused to run for reelection after bruising opposition to the Vietnam War. Johnson announced on March 31, 1968, from the Oval Office, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” The statement has been used some other times in various forms; it is meant as the last word on the nomination.
Ryan believes that the party should choose a candidate who has gone through the primaries. The speaker said, “I would encourage [delegates] to put in place a rule that says you can only nominate someone who actually ran for the job.” The speaker told the party to institute a rule limiting consideration the nomination at the convention to only those that ran in that cycle.” Ryan wanted also to ensure that outside choices including his former 2012 running mate Mitt Romney would not be considered, leaving the main fight between Donald trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Later in his remarks, Ryan again encouraged the party to choose a nominee from the current slate of candidates, “Let me speak directly to the delegates on this: If no candidate has a majority on the first ballot, I believe you should only choose a person who actually participated in the primary. Count me out,” he said. “I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee – to be the president – you should actually run for it. I chose not to. Therefore, I should not be considered. Period.”
The Republican Party has been looking at Ryan as a “savior” during this divisive primary campaign. Ryan seemed the perfect compromise candidate in the case the delegates are deadlocked. As Politico points out, “Ryan’s popularity with the party establishment, credentials on government spending with the grass roots, and stature as a House speaker and 2012 vice presidential nominee make him a unique figure within the GOP.”
There has been chatter, and speculation Ryan might be open to accepting the nomination or a late convention run as he did when he was essentially drafted as the compromise choice for speaker last October when then Speaker John Boehner, R-OH announced his early retirement. The speaker repeatedly said he will not run, but the speculation led him to declare definitively for the last time, he does not want to be considered.
Ryan indicated how different the situation was in the House with his rise to Speaker of the House than it would be accepting the Republican presidential nomination. Ryan explained, “Apples and oranges. Speaker of the House is a far cry from being president of the United States. I was already in the House. I am already a congressman. So I was asked by my colleagues to take a responsibility within Congress that I’ve already been serving in from the one that I had. That is entirely different than getting the nomination for president of the United States by your party without even running for the job.”
Speaker Ryan is focusing on the House Republican agenda and the party’s priorities. Ryan wants the party to focus on optimism, “We want to be a party defined by solutions … by being on the side of the people. We want to take our principles and apply them to the problems of the day.” The speaker believes ideas and solutions should be at the party’s forefront, “As I’ve talked about before, politics today tends to drift toward personality contests, not policy contests. Insults get more ink than ideas. But we still owe it to the country to show what we would do if given a mandate from the people. We have an obligation to give a clear picture – a clear choice. To talk about solutions. That’s why I’ve been giving speeches, that’s why I’ve been communicating a vision for what our party and country can be. And I’m going to continue doing it.” Ryan will only take on one role at the Convention in Cleveland as chairman of the convention, who will “preside” not be the subject of the nomination process.
Speculation of a potential Ryan run hit a fever pitch when on March 23; Ryan delivered a speech on the state of American politics, which also rebuked the campaign on both sides, but particularly GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s tactics. Ryan had said, “Looking around at what’s taking place in politics today, it is easy to get disheartened. How many of you find yourself just shaking your head at what you see from both sides? Now, a little skepticism is healthy.” Ryan never mentioned Trump, but has called out the frontrunner on a few occasions for his divisive rhetoric, but Ryan has repeatedly pledged to support whoever becomes the GOP nominee. Still this foray into the campaign allowed speculation about Ryan’s 2016 intentions to go into overdrive.
So far, the large GOP field has narrowed down to frontrunner Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The GOP establishment has been doing anything possible to block Trump from the nomination, mostly because of his offensive comments towards women, minorities, and other groups and other missteps that show a lack of knowledge on important policy issues. Most of the establishment and party leaders are lining up and now supporting Trump’s primary opponent Texas Senator Ted Cruz hoping to force a contested convention.
The opposition to Trump has been successful; Cruz has been racking primary wins recently by wide margins, because of the party’s support and grabbing up delegates. Cruz has proved a formidable threat with the backing of conservative and evangelical leaders and voters, but he could never win enough delegates in the remaining contests and could only win the nomination at a contested convention.
Cruz and the GOP establishment’s anti-Trump campaign and the “Never Trump movement” are making it harder for the embattled frontrunner. According to the Associated Press’ latest count, Trump has 743 delegates while, Cruz has 532 delegates, still a 200 plus delegates deficit; 1237 delegates are needed to clinch the nomination. Trump would need to win 64 percent of the rest of the available delegates up for grabs to secure the nomination outright before the convention.