GOP's Ryan tells Phila. audience Romney should run again

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (left) shakes hands with Michael Smerconish (right) at the start of The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia event at the Union League on Wednesday night.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (left) shakes hands with Michael Smerconish (right) at the start of The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia event at the Union League on Wednesday night. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 22, 2014

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, bruited as a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender, said Wednesday night that he wished his former running mate, Mitt Romney, would undertake a third campaign for the White House.

"He has what it takes," Ryan said during an appearance at the Union League to promote a book, one of the prerequisites of a modern candidacy. "He has the intellect. He has the principles and the integrity, so I would love it."

Ryan added that Romney has said he's not interested, but "I tell him all the time" that he should run.

Ryan was the 2012 GOP vice-presidential nominee on the ticket with Romney. The Wisconsin congressman and designer of federal budget proposals that would have cut the government safety net has been focusing on new ways to fight poverty and broaden the appeal of the Republican Party - both key themes in his new book, The Way Forward.

The chairman of the House Budget Committee, in town on the first stop of an eight-day, 18-city tour to promote the book, spoke at a gathering of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.

Outside the Union League's South Broad Street building, protesters denounced Ryan for pushing cuts in existing federal antipoverty programs such as food stamps, and for his proposal to convert Medicare into a voucher program and limit growth in Social Security benefits. They also took him to task for Congress' failure to change U.S. immigration laws.

Some carried a parody of the Wisconsin lawmaker's book, retouched and blown up to poster size, in which Ryan was depicted as having one hand on a wheelchair, ready to push a gray-haired woman in a floral-print smock over a cliff, while shaking hands at a political rally with the other.

"The situation is not funny," said Jim Farally, 69, of Havertown, a retired sheet-metal worker who held the poster, "but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words."

A handful of immigration-rights supporters were on hand to razz Ryan, too.

Sundrop Carter, organizing director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, an advocacy group, criticized Ryan for his support of a bill that would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama administration initiative that grants temporary relief from deportation to immigrants brought to America as young children.

"Paul Ryan has said in the past that he thinks there needs to be immigration reform," she said. "But it's hard to have faith in our politicians when they are purposely taking anti-immigrant stands."

Ryan said during his appearance that the GOP must show it cares about the concerns and struggles of ordinary Americans. He also said antipoverty programs should be funded by the federal government but run by the states, with success measured not by appropriations but by the number of people who leave poverty.

The Union League appearance was the first stop on a book tour that will take Ryan to stops in Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and California.

Despite speculation that he is preparing to make his own run for the White House, Ryan has said he would not focus on that question until next year and that he does not wake up every day plotting to gain the presidency. He repeated that stance Wednesday night.

Earlier in the day, Ryan told Bloomberg TV as well that he would back Romney in 2016 if the former Massachusetts governor, launched a third presidential run. "I'd drive his bus if he asked me to," Ryan said.

If Ryan runs, he likely would find himself in a crowd vying for the 2016 Republican nomination. Among those testing the waters: New Jersey Gov. Christie; U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida; Texas Gov. Rick Perry; and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

215-854-2718 @tomfitzgerald

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