WASHINGTON — U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan issued an emphatic statement Tuesday that he would not accept the Republican Party's presidential nomination this summer at the GOP convention in Cleveland, effectively broadening U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's potential path to becoming the party's nominee.
"Let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept the Republican nomination," the Wisconsin Republican told reporters at a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters. "So 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."
"I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee — to be the president — you should actually run for it," he added. "I chose not to. Therefore, I should not be considered. Period."
Ryan's statement echoed President Lyndon Johnson's 1968 statement that he would not accept the Democratic nomination, which blew open the presidential race and led to chaos at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
It's no secret in Washington that many power brokers are deeply disturbed with their current options: real estate magnate Donald Trump, who has waged a campaign filled with statements offensive to some women and minority groups; or Cruz, who elates the conservative base but is not personally liked in some Republican circles.
Ryan is so far the most cohesive force in Republican politics, and many of the party faithful hoped he could win the nomination on a contested ballot this summer. But though the practice of considering someone who never even waged a presidential campaign to win at the convention was common decades ago, modern politics has not allowed for such a candidate.
Cruz's only path to the nomination will likely cross through the convention floor. Should Trump be unable to secure a majority of delegates during the primary, Cruz will likely engage with him in metaphorical hand-to-hand combat on the convention floor over delegates. An effort to draft Ryan had the potential to undermine Cruz's goal of uniting anti-Trump forces behind him.
Back during the speaker's race last fall, Ryan was similarly reluctant to serve as speaker and then had a change of heart. When asked if his current reluctance mirrored that situation, Ryan said it was "apples and oranges."
"Being speaker of the House is a far cry from being president of the United States, specifically because I was already in the House," Ryan said. "I'm already a congressman."
"So, I was asked by colleagues to take a responsibility within Congress that I've already been serving in from the one I had," Ryan added. "That is entirely different than getting the nomination for president of the United States by your party without even running for the job."