For the first time since Newt Gingrich, Republicans are poised to have an inspiring leader presiding over Congress. If all goes well later today, [crscore]Paul Ryan[/crscore] will be the most conservative speaker in modern American history and someone who — despite some obvious challenges — has the potential for greatness.
Ryan will be “a different kind of speaker [who is] devoted to public policy,” said Cesar Conda, a former Chief of Staff to Senator [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] who has been a friend to Ryan for 25 years since they first worked together in the office of former Senator Robert Kasten of Wisconsin. Conda predicts Ryan will use the speakership, not just to corral votes, but to communicate and sell conservative ideas to the American people. “He needs to do what Gingrich did, and multiply it,” Conda told me.
Rising through the ranks of the House usually requires a thirst for power and a penchant for retail politics, so few visionary leaders or charismatic communicators ascend to the highest echelons. Ryan, because of his age, communications skills, and well-earned reputation as a policy wonk, could use this perch to present conservatism as a proactive philosophy — not just a reaction to Obama’s presidency. In short, as Conda said, Ryan can demonstrate the GOP is “the alternative, not the opposition.”
My forthcoming book Too Dumb to Fail encourages this optimistic brand of conservatism, and despite all the struggles confronting today’s GOP and conservative movement, there is cause for hope: by 2016, it’s possible we could have two young conservative communicators leading the GOP — and the nation.
I’m talking, of course, about the possibility that a President Marco Rubio could follow a Speaker Paul Ryan. This would be almost tantamount to what happened in 1992, when Bill Clinton doubled down on the young Southerner thing, and selected Al Gore as his running mate.
Why is this exciting and important? We are at an inflection point. In contrast to Hillary Clinton, [crscore]Harry Reid[/crscore], and [crscore]Nancy Pelosi[/crscore], the GOP is poised for a major generational change. Moreover, it’s worth asking this more substantive question: do we want a future with a Speaker Ryan and a potential President Rubio, who represent solutions-based conservative reforms — or do we want Donald Trump?
Make no mistake, this is a crossroads, as these directions diverge dramatically. They all might ostensibly be Republicans, but the Ryan-Rubio brand is dramatically different from the Trump brand. This decision could greatly impact perceptions about the party for years into the future.
This brings me to my concerns about the way Jeb Bush’s team is signaling they want to go after Rubio. The problem for Jeb is that it doesn’t matter how much money he spends, it just seems like this is not his time. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, if nobody wants to vote for Jeb, there’s nothing he can do to stop them. So what does Jeb (or more importantly, Mike Murphy — who runs Jeb’s super PAC) do as an act of desperation? Rather than spending money to stop Donald Trump, does Bush really want to use his resources to take down one of the conservative movement’s rising stars?
Jeb’s money might not help him win, but it could possibly destroy Rubio’s chances. That would be an odd legacy for Jeb Bush’s “joyful” campaign to leave us with.