Is Paul Ryan Playing A Long Game?

Much to everyone’s surprise, the budget deal squeezed past both houses of Congress. But where does that leave Paul Ryan, the Republican who brokered the deal with Democrats?

Last summer, Ryan’s bona fides as a fiscal conservative landed him the vice-presidential spot on Mitt Romney’s ticket. Famous for his spending and entitlement-slashing budgets, Ryan was recruited to energize the conservative base of the GOP.

A year and a half later, with speculation already swirling about who the Republicans will field in the next presidential election, Ryan could find himself on the opposite side of the equation, having sacrificed his well earned reputation for fiscal conservatism on the altar of compromise.

The other top 2016 conservative contenders -- Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz -- have spotted the chance to outflank Ryan on the inside. They have conspicuously refused to  back the bipartisan budget agreement Ryan crafted and are poised to vote against it, leaving the Wisconsin congressman all alone on the budget issue.

“For Rubio, Paul and Cruz, this vote is about keeping the powder dry, pure and simple,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “They are going to have a few more tough votes most likely between now and 2016 and they just want to keep the powder dry.”

This is particularly true in Rubio’s case, O’Connell noted, because Rubio angered the conservative base when earlier this year he worked with Democrats on a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

“He is looking to make himself a problem solver on Capitol Hill,” O’Connell said. “He’s one of the few people, at least in the House, that can really take up that mantle because he’s trusted by both conservatives and members of the establishment in the party.”

Read more from Pema Levy at Newsweek

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