On her MSNBC show last night, Rachel Maddow reported that off-the-record comments by sources close to Paul Ryan and high in the GOP ranks appear to signal that Republicans in high places are anticipating that Mitt Romney will lose the presidential election on Tuesday.
Maddow suggested that the anonymous comments from the Ryan camp this week were ominously similar to anonymous comments made to the media as the presidential campaign was drawing to a close four years ago by pro-Sarah Palin conservatives — comments that, according to Maddow, citing an anonymous senior official from the McCain campaign leadership team, caused a rift between Palin and John McCain in the last week before the 2008 election. (McCain’s campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, is an MSNBC contributor and McCain senior advisor Nicolle Wallace is a frequent guest on the network.)
Here is the statement about Palin to the New York Times from a supporter that created agita for McCain and his senior management team at the end of October 2008:
“If [McCain] loses, [Palin] could emerge as a standard bearer for the movement and potential presidential candidate in 2012 … Her prospects, in or out of government, are the subject of intensive conversations among conservative leaders … there are signs that she, too, is making sure that she is well-positioned for the future if she and Mr. McCain lose.” [Emphasis added.]
And here is what the Associated Press is reporting this week about how Ryan’s “biggest boosters” and “senior Republicans” see Ryan’s future after Tuesday:
If Romney loses, Ryan will be seen as a leading White House contender in 2016. He will be a national party figure even without being a top member of the House leadership. That could breed resentment among current Republican leaders and perhaps splinter coalitions within the already fractured GOP alliances at the top of the House.
A return [to Congress] also would make Ryan a leading target for Democrats. For the next few years, Democrats would lay traps in legislation, forcing him to take sides on measures that could come back to haunt him during a presidential bid.
That is why some of Ryan’s biggest boosters are considering whether it wouldn’t be better for Ryan to resign from the House. He could write a book — “saving America” is a theme often bandied about — or teach at a university.
After all, on the campaign trail, Ryan is as much lecturer as campaigner. Aides routinely set up giant video screens so Ryan can use visual aids to walk audiences through the minutiae of budget politics. Graphs and charts are as common as yard signs and American flags at some events, with Ryan settling into his role as explainer in chief.
It’s no accident he embraces the “wonk” label aggressively. It could make him an attractive figure as a guest lecturer or visiting professor.
Or Ryan could set up an office at a Washington think tank and focus on issues that interest him. That would give him a platform to shape public policy without the frustrations of electoral politics.
Both options would give Ryan some space to contemplate serious issues. One of the chief reasons Romney put him on the ticket — and one of the reasons he accepted — was to have high-minded debates about Washington’s relationship with the public. That notion quickly melted into the partisan rancor of this campaign.
Ryan could cash in and become a lobbyist. His family is on solid financial footing, thanks in part to wife Janna Ryan’s family money. Last year, the couple reported adjusted gross income of more than $323,000. Yet Ryan himself has never been a major earner. He started out as a congressional aide and waited tables to pay the bills.
Ryan might just take up positions in corporate boardrooms, either as a consultant or director. The lucrative positions, though, could preclude a future White House run if not carefully chosen.
During the Republican presidential primary campaign, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich faced questions about his profitable network of consulting and media firms. One of his clients was mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which he blamed for the economic crisis of 2008.
If he wins re-election, Ryan could simply settle back into life in Congress.
So — as was the case with Palin four years ago — Republicans see the world opening up in front of Paul Ryan, their new standard bearer, should Mitt Romney go down in defeat. They say Ryan could return to the House, assuming he wins reelection in his district, or he could get paid for the lectures he gives by joining academia. He could start his own right-wing thimk tank. (Can’t have too many of those!) Or he could cash in and become a lobbyist and/or corporate board member.
But there is one job it is unlikely that Ryan will ever have — just as it becomes unlikelier with each passing second that Palin will ever have it — and that is the job of president of the United States.
Statistically, at least, the vice presidential candidate on the losing ticket very rarely goes on to become president. In fact, faced with this happy talk about Palin’s prospects in the week after the election four years ago, we dug into the record and found that, since 1828 (when the way vice presidents are elected was changed to more or less the way we do it now), only one losing VP nominee has ever gone on to win the presidency.
It was Franklin Roosevelt, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee on the ticket with James M. Cox (remember him? Me neither), and who lost to Warren G. Harding in the 1920 election. FDR won the presidency in 1932 and was reelected three more times.
But it is fair to say that, whatever he is, Paul Ryan is no Franklin D. Roosevelt. Not hardly.