House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is not running for president, but as he delivers a speech Thursday loaded with the cheery conservatism of Ronald Reagan, it's hard not to imagine some Republicans wishing he would.
Ryan will use this first major policy address at the stately Library of Congress to push for a return to a "confident America," a calling card he intends to use throughout the 2016 campaign year.
The GOP leader's rosy message is an about-face from the usual Republican gloom-and-doom warnings over the nation's economic uncertainty and what they see as the loss of American leadership. Such pessimistic themes have punctuated the presidential campaign trail and been used by Ryan previously in his criticism of President Obama.
"We want America to be confident again," Ryan will say, according to excerpts of his midday speech. The Wisconsin Republican took over for former Speaker John A. Boehner barely a month ago.
"If you don’t have a job, we want you to be confident that you can find one — and take it. If you do have a job, we want you to be confident that that job will pay well. We want students to know that all that school — and all that debt — will be worth it. We want seniors to know that all those years of hard work — and all those years of paying taxes — will be rewarded. Medicare and Social Security will be there when you need them," he will say.
As the architect of the GOP's austerity budgets, Ryan will revive his calls for less taxes, spending and debt.
But his main policy proposal appears to be the pursuit of a national attitude adjustment.
"We want to see progress and have pride. We want people to believe in the future again. We want a country where no one’s stuck, where no one settles, where everyone can rise.”
The address, being given as many of the Republican presidential candidates are delivering their own speeches at a separate gathering in Washington, may not be competing for attention so much as offering an alternative GOP message.
Ryan, the party's former vice presidential nominee, took a pass on becoming a candidate this cycle. And he had to be almost dragged into the speaker's suite after Boehner's abrupt resignation left the party desperate for a House leader.
Although Ryan is known as the party's deep thinker, Thursday's speech is the latest sign that he intends to use the bully pulpit of his new office to help set the tone as the GOP tries to retake the White House and maintain its majority in Congress.