Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, told NBC News in an interview Monday that he will not seek the presidency in 2016.
“I have decided that I am not going to run for president in 2016,” Ryan said in a phone interview, noting that he is “at peace” with the decision he made “weeks ago” to forgo a bid for the White House.
“It is amazing the amount of encouragement I have gotten from people – from friends and supporters – but I feel like I am in a position to make a big difference where I am and I want to do that,” he said.
The nine-term congressman believes he can make that “big difference” in his new role as chairman of the influential House Ways and Means Committee rather than as a presidential contender.
The committee will meet Tuesday to kick off the new Congress. By announcing that he’ll pass on a White House run, Ryan hopes to demonstrate that he’ll devote his “undivided attention” to the committee, although he admits that it will be “bittersweet not being on the trail” as a candidate this upcoming cycle.
Ryan, who is married with three young children, said he reached his decision over the holidays last year, well before Friday’s news that his former running mate, Mitt Romney, is once again eyeing a presidential bid.
“It is no secret that I have always thought Mitt would make a great president,” he said. “As for his plans for 2016, I don’t know what he is ultimately going to do and the last thing I want to do is get ahead of his own decision making process.”
The congressman would not throw his support behind any potential 2016 presidential candidate during the interview, saying that any endorsement would be “premature.”
But, Ryan added, he believes that a Republican can “absolutely” win.
“I think we’ve got a number of very capable candidates who have every ability to become president. There are a lot of talented people,” he said. “I think it is critical that our party puts forward bold, conservative ideas and give people a choice. I think we have a number of capable leaders who can do that.”
Ryan said he plans to do whatever he can to help the Republican Party and its eventual nominee win the White House in 2016.
“It’s clear the country needs a change in direction and our party has a responsibility to offer a real alternative,” he said, adding that, as chairman of his House committee, he will help “lay out conservative solutions that will help our nominee lead us to victory.”
Ryan’s decision to stay out of the presidential race this go-around hasn’t prevented the Wisconsin lawmaker, a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, from some gentle ribbing of another potential 2016 candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“Do you need a hug now?” Ryan tweeted at Christie, a longtime Dallas Cowboys fan, following the Packer’s playoff victory Sunday night over the Cowboys.
At just 44 years old, Ryan wouldn’t rule out a future bid for higher office, saying that he plans to “keep my options open” when it comes to other potential political opportunities.