By Felicia Sonmez
The Washington Post
CLEVELAND — Paul Ryan jogged down the stairs of his campaign plane at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport late Tuesday morning to meet his running mate, Mitt Romney, part of a final, frantic Election Day dash for swing-state voters.
Crossing the tarmac, he found himself a few hundred yards away from the plane of the man Ryan had hoped to oust from the White House: Vice President Joe Biden, who had arrived minutes earlier for an unannounced eleventh-hour visit.
Unfortunately for Ryan, Air Force Two still remains beyond his reach.
After Romney and Ryan’s defeat Tuesday night, the seven-term Wisconsin Republican will return to Capitol Hill with no clear flight path, a wealth of options and a host of questions about his political future.
Ryan, 42, could decide that the House offers the best place to pursue his ambitions. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, he has secured a place among his party’s intellectual leaders, speaking out on how to rein in entitlement costs and cut government spending. Staying in the midst of the action could keep him in the public eye, but it also carries the risk of dragging him back into the gridlocked skirmishing that has earned Congress such consistently low marks in public opinion polls.
He could choose to leave Congress and head for the quieter quarters of a think tank or the megaphone of the lecture circuit, if he wants to gear up early for a 2016 presidential bid of his own. But few nominees, let alone presidents, have traveled that path to the White House. Ronald Reagan, in 1980, was the last president to be elected from private life rather than from a public office.
Will the GOP ticket’s loss tarnish Ryan in some way? Ryan’s backers say no. So have some in the media, such as New York Magazine’s John Heilemann, whose Sunday story about Ryan carried the headline, “Win or Lose, Paul Ryan’s GOP Future Is Bright.”