Nobody has more sensitive antennae to the zephyrs of public opinion than a U.S. Congressman, and Paul Ryan is no exception. That line from the Iowa Republican official that if he wanted to run for national office again in the future, he’d have to “wash the stench of Romney off him,” probably was uttered long after Ryan had already begun furtively developing a personal survival plan.
Being the savvy pol that he is, Ryan has kept his options open by running a simultaneous campaign for reelection to his Wisconsin seat. He’s not to be singled out as particularly squirrely in this regard, however. Some of us remember when Joe Lieberman ran for reelection to the U.S. Senate in Connecticut while he was campaigning as Al Gore’s running mate in 2000. There have been others.
Still, such escape hatches emit an unsavory whiff of opportunism that further sullies an already poisoned atmosphere. You’d expect a running mate to return the honor of being the standard-bearer’s top selection by going all-in, 100 percent, with the attitude that failure is not an option.
Then again, we’re talking Mitt Romney and Al Gore here—not exactly two guys you’d want to invite to your bachelor party. Who can blame those who were chosen by/shackled to them? Evidently, the constituents don’t mind acting as a political insurance policy. Lieberman won reelection to the Senate even though he and Gore “lost” in 2000, and went on to distinguish himself as a craven turncoat by delivering a speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention endorsing John McCain.
And we should be very surprised if Ryan isn’t returned to his House seat, whether or not he grabs the brass ring. There, after a few vigorous scrubbings with harsh laundry soap, the stench he so fears may begin to dissipate.