U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrives for the presidential inauguration...

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrives for the presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol. (Jan. 21, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin probably will be the first Republican to make up his mind about 2016.

After winning re-election today, he will have to make a big decision in the next two weeks: whether to pursue his longtime dream of becoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee or pursue a more recent dream to seek the presidency.

When the Republicans hold their planning session for the next Congress this month, Ryan would be the favorite to succeed Representative Dave Camp of Michigan as Ways and Means chairman.

But Ryan also has been encouraged to go for the presidential nomination. One of the people reportedly pushing him is Mitt Romney, who selected him as his running mate in 2014. It's a wide-open race this time, the argument goes, and Ryan would be one of the favorites.

"We're going to start sorting out this presidential race quickly and Paul will be the first one," says Vin Weber, a top Republican strategist.

It's a difficult choice: No congressional committee will have a more important or fuller agenda than Ways and Means -- trade, tax reform, health care -- and Ryan is one of the foremost congressional experts on these issues. Moreover, under the current system, committee chairmen are important fundraisers for the party, and none more so than the head of Ways and Means because of the panel's wide jurisdiction over many vested interests.

A consideration for Paul, 44, is that his three children are young. A full-fledged presidential campaign, unlike his three-month quest for the vice-presidency, would demand hundreds of days away from home on the campaign trail next year.

Hunt is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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