Speaker of the House Paul Ryan held a press conference today announcing he would not be running for the Republican nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention. This left me with two questions. One, Paul Ryan is still Speaker of the House? And two, why did he feel it was necessary to hold a press conference? If he wasn’t running and didn’t want delegates to vote for him, he could have done it with a Tweet, a press statement, or an email. If he would have used Hillary’s email server, everyone would have known about it in a few seconds.
There are any number of possible explanations. He might have wanted to get on TV for something other than betraying his own party. Maybe he wanted a sick relative see him on TV once. Or, he could be jockeying for a Vice Presidential spot with one of the remaining Presidential hopefuls or even for a potential floor candidate like Mitt Romney. I’m sure they might be able to turn Romney/Ryan 2012 merch into Romney/Ryan 2016 merch without too much trouble,
But there could be another option, one that fits perfectly with the current state of American politics. Paul Ryan is angling to be the 2016 Republican nominee.
In the book and the film The Prestige, a magic trick is explained in three parts. The first part is “The Pledge,” where the magician shows the audience an ordinary object that may or may not be ordinary. This is designed to create a grounded reality so you suspend any disbelief prior to the execution of the trick. The second part is “The Turn” where the object is made to do something unbelievable. Because you’ve already accepted the reality created in The Pledge, you are more inclined to believe the unbelievable. The third and final part is “The Prestige” where the object is returned to the audience’s attention. If done well enough, The Prestige will not only reconcile the believable and unbelievable elements of the trick, but also cut off any and all further inquiries about the trick.
So, what does this have to do with Ryan’s press conference? Plenty. Ryan’s press conference may have been designed to create a grounded political reality where he shows he has no interest in being nominated at the Republican National Convention. If we take him at his word (a requirement for The Pledge to work properly), it should be case closed.
At least until we hit The Turn. With the current Republican nomination process being more like mud wrestling than politics (which is saying a lot, but none of it good), we could easily see a brokered convention where none of the candidates actually running for the position get the required number of delegates to be the nominee. Should that happen, I believe we will see The Turn in the form of a change of heart from Ryan. After all, if the party is still fractured by the convention, shouldn’t there be a candidate that has the backing of the delegates and would be a stark contrast to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz? And if that candidate just happens to be Paul Ryan…well, you get the idea.
That leaves The Prestige. If Ryan accepts the nomination and vows to heal the self-inflicted wounds from the Republican campaign, the Establishment GOP will not only breathe a sigh of relief, but anyone grousing about it afterwards would be hard-pressed to be taken seriously. The party would be unified under a (presumably) better-liked candidate and two thorns in the GOP’s side would be sidelined. It’s a win-win for those who want a united front as long as it’s not behind Trump or Cruz, but it would wind up in a Republican loss to a weak Democrat challenger.
For now, I’m willing to take Paul Ryan at his word, but I’m still going to be carefully watching for the second and third parts of his possible political prestige to play out.