Cantor eyes Ryan for White House race

As Republican officials continue to wonder who they might be able to recruit to run for president, it appears the House Majority Leader has someone specific in mind.

Count House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as one top Republican who’d like to see Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) jump into the presidential race.

Cantor responded immediately when asked Monday whether Ryan, a rising GOP star and author of the party’s official budget plan, should run for the White House in 2012.

“Sure,” Cantor said. “Paul’s about real leadership. I think that that’s what this public so desperately wants to do right now. They don’t want to see individuals that just dismiss problems that we can just sweep under the rug.”

Now, Cantor’s description of Ryan is pretty silly. The right-wing Budget Committee chairman’s agenda can be called many things, but an example of “real leadership” it isn’t.

But if Cantor thinks a Paul Ryan candidacy would be a good idea, and has some influence with the far-right Wisconsinite, it would set up quite an interesting race, wouldn’t it? At this point, Dems are thrilled to have Ryan’s plan as a punching bag, desperately trying to pin down other Republicans on whether they’re on board with a radical scheme to eliminate Medicare, just as GOP lawmakers and candidates are feeling increasingly antsy about it.

Imagine how much Dems would enjoy targeting Ryan himself.

For the record, Ryan was asked about this on “Meet the Press” yesterday, and ruled out a presidential bid, at least in 2012.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.