At a point when the Republican presidential race is veering off course once more, the party’s most prominent Congressional star, Paul Ryan, could have used his featured speaking slot at the Conservative Political Action Conference to talk up the remaining contenders.
Instead, the House Budget Committee chairman gave a Thursday night speech that suggested Republicans are running the wrong race this year, and that none too subtly positioned him as the party’s man on a white horse. And if the message was not blunt enough, he compared his approach and his vision to that of conservative icon Ronald Reagan.
“We only have nine months to defeat Barack Obama—nine months to reject his agenda of debt, doubt, and decline. And while defeating this president is necessary to getting America back on track, it is hardly sufficient,” declared Ryan, who spoke at the Washington, DC, conference where a chastened Mitt Romney (the “front-runner” who has lost more states than he has won), Rick Santorum (the latest “Anyone-But-Romney”) and Newt Gingrich (Moon colonist) will try to get traction with conservatives.
But Ryan wasn’t helping anyone get moving toward the nomination. Except, perhaps, himself.
Though Ryan regularly says he is “probably not” a prospect for a place on the GOP’s 2012 national ticket—as a vice presidential candidate or even the choice of a brokered convention—he was not giving as assist to Romney or any of the other last men standing in the Republican field.
The man, whom more than a few conservative pundits continue to tout as a potential convention alternative to a field of failed contenders, was preening and positioning before a worried crowd of the nation’s most influential conservatives. And he got some notice. Indeed, the full text of the congressman’s CPAC speech was posted within minutes of its delivery on the website of the conservative National Review magazine. And video of the speech was everywhere on the web by Friday morning.
“Put simply,” said Ryan, “Americans deserve a choice—and it is our responsibility to offer them one. They deserve an opportunity, not just to divert from the president’s path to decline but to affirm a reform agenda that restores our bedrock of founding principles.”
At points in his well received speech, Ryan was explicit in expressing disappointment with his own party’s unfocused message.