Paul Ryan’s speaker race fans: He’s just not that into them

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We've all been there. There are these two people. They're both single. And you want to pair them up. They like the same things. They're both good looking. Really smart.

They'd be so cute together.

You invite them to cocktail hour after work. There's that party at your friend's house a week from Friday. Just come over and hang out. Hey, we're just all going to go to the park and play touch football Saturday. Why don't you join us?

And yet despite your efforts as Cupid, they never ever, ever seem to get together. His Uber was late. Her aunt was in town. They were both away on vacation. And it just never works out.

Such is the case with House Republicans trying to convince Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to run for speaker. His office swiftly said no after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy abruptly ducked out of the race last week -- but Ryan's admirers keep holding out hope.

Some GOP factions have tried to connect Ryan with a spot at the House Republican leadership table for eight or nine years now. They gush. Ryan's so good with the numbers. He communicates so well. He did such a good job this weekend on 'Face the Nation.' His budgets are fiscal masterpieces.

Paul Ryan is calculating. Semi-risk adverse. He only plays games with predetermined endgames or where he can control the outcome. Ryan was perfectly suited to chairing the House Budget Committee for four years. Budgets are non-binding, aspirational documents which lack the force of law. It's easy to project an eventual balanced budget decades into the future. The final numbers are never "scored" by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to attest to their fiscal validity. Prepping a budget is pretty low-risk. Lots of numbers and jumble which are hard to grasp. Lots of sound bites and pretty charts which are easier to grasp. Red meat for the base. Low-risk. High-reward.

But with a budget, you're not really firing with live ammo.

In late 2013, Ryan did put himself on the line. He forged a minor budget agreement with then-Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash. Ryan earned plaudits from Democrats and Republicans alike for working toward a compromise.

But Ryan caught hell from some in his party. Military backers upbraided Ryan for reductions in cost-of-living adjustments for younger veterans. The bill also busted mandatory, across-the-board "sequestration" budget caps -- a holy grail to many conservatives. In the end, the measure saved some money: a meager $23 billion.

Ryan earned both bona fides and criticism for midwifing the package. But that's what happens in Washington when you stick your neck out.

It's kind of like the vulnerabilities one is exposed to in a relationship. There can be great reward ... or you can get burned. And that's what Paul Ryan is struggling with now as he weighs calls to run for speaker.

Sources close to Ryan say the Wisconsin Republican might not even formally make his intentions known until Congress returns to session next week.

This presents peril for Ryan. Arch-conservative groups are ganging up on Ryan, declaring he's not right-wing enough. They cite Ryan-Murray. They point to the congressman's position on immigration. They note he's already too "establishment," welded to the current Republican brass.

The longer Ryan doesn't say anything, the louder the anti-Ryan cacophony.

However, this could work in the converse. Does Ryan's silence allow right-wing voices to expose themselves as nothing short of foolish? Can they truly portray the congressman as anything but conservative?

Some sources pursuing Ryan believe each passing day means it's more likely Ryan will run. Another source characterized that line of thinking as a "false optimism because we don't have anyone else."

That said, if Ryan is ultimately a no, he may never have to ever say anything about it again. His office can just point to the previous "no" declarations, adding that nothing ever changed.

If Ryan is in, he might keep his powder dry altogether well into next week.

Let's say Ryan is in. It does him no favors to declare his candidacy for speaker before the House votes to raise the debt limit -- one of the most noxious votes Congress takes. Now what if House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, fails to hike the debt ceiling before he leaves? That means the debt ceiling is one of the first issues with which Speaker Ryan must tangle. That alone could drown the new speaker.

If Ryan is a yes, he might stay mum until Boehner clears the deck of the debt ceiling next week -- then announce his candidacy.

Over the past few days, top Republicans made a point of demonstrating to Ryan he can maintain life balance. They told him about outings they did with the kids. McCarthy, R-Calif., and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., offered to pick up the fundraising slack and travel if Ryan wants to spend weekends at home with family. There's talk about how the GOP apparatus could build an operational structure to run Congress on a day-to-day basis, limiting Ryan's time commitment.

Of course, some of that talk seems absurd. You're either the speaker or not. You can't be a SINO (Speaker In Name Only) just because everyone (well, most everyone) likes you and agrees to back you up. The speaker is either all in ... or not.

But isn't that the problem? If one person had such a crush on another, wouldn't they want them to reciprocate with the same commitment? Otherwise, that's a one-way relationship.

And if Ryan says no, maybe he's just not that into them.

Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.