So, there’s good news and bad news for Hillary Clinton as she eyes a presidential run.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie seemed to be emerging as the favorite Republican son. Moderate, folksy, likable.
Then he became ever more enmeshed in his Bridgegate scandal and his national star began to fall.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was just turning his image around since he last ran for president. He recently challenged President Barack Obama on border issues and catapulted onto the national scene.
Oops, but then he was indicted.
So there you have two bits of good news for Clinton. Two major Republican possibilities are marred before Clinton even had to lift a finger.
That brings us to the bad news for Hillary.
His name is Paul Ryan.
The conservative Wisconsin congressman, chairman of the House Budget Committee, respected leader and, of course, Mitt Romney’s pick as his 2012 presidential running mate, seems to be flirting with the idea of making a 2016 run, if his newly released book is any indication.
“It didn’t take long for me to realize that while we may have lost an election, the cause continues,” Ryan wrote in “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea.”
“The prudent leader is like the captain of a ship. He doesn’t curse the wind; he uses it to reach his destination.”
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Ryan could pose an even bigger threat to Clinton than Christie or Perry, and she knows it. Instant name recognition. Policy experience, yet he also has endured the rigors of a national campaign.
He has credibility with conservatives and a solid reputation on the Hill. Those who know Ryan have long said he’s just too much of a policy wonk to make the run, which isn’t the worst way for your colleagues to think of you.
Then there are plain numbers. Real Clear Politics has Christie with a slight lead among possible Republican competitors. But various surveys have shown Ryan gaining steam. A January Washington Post poll had Ryan leading fellow Republicans in popularity for the presidency, including against Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Christie, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz.
In February, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found that Ryan was Hillary’s biggest threat in the swing state of Ohio.
Peter Brown, assistant director of the institute, noted then that Christie’s numbers dropped from the previous November to February.
Ryan remained the strongest in the Republican field.
Of course, so much can happen before 2016. Initial reaction to Perry’s indictment on an abuse of power charge is one of bewilderment. In the simplest terms, Perry is accused of carrying out a veto after threatening to do so. If he beats the charge like he says he will, he could become an overnight sensation.
Christie, too, remains popular and as the head of the Republican Governors Association, he’s shown he has the ability to raise huge sums of cash. Then there’s Jeb Bush, who has strong polling numbers and instant name recognition. He’ll have to get past his mother, the former first lady, who questioned whether the nation needed another Bush in the White House.
It’s Ryan though, who has been most visible of late. Last week, Mitt Romney and Ryan landed in Chicago just briefly as part of a nine-day tour promoting Ryan’s new book. They appeared before a small, well-heeled group at the Union League Club.
Hillary Clinton recently came through town to promote her book as well.
She filled the Harris Theatre as Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked her questions about her writings.
In 2012, Ryan showed he was a solid campaigner, but by no means was he a galvanizing force. He’d have to step up his game.
Clinton has what Obama had — history to make — only this time as the first female president of the United States.
Ryan, meanwhile, is poised to take the helm of the powerful U.S. House Ways & Means Committee, something that more than suits his interests.
In that sense, Ryan and Clinton offer a stark contrast, in both style and substance.
That quickly came across in a recent USA Today online video interview when Ryan called Clinton formidable but beatable. He called her record on foreign policy “abysmal.”
“I don’t think people are going to want to have an Obama third term, and no matter how she tries to shake that label, she won’t be able to,” he said.
It’s a pretty good guess that Ryan will help make sure she doesn’t.