WASHINGTON • After a month of speculation and pleas ranging from comic to mildly desperate, Speaker Paul Ryan held an unusually formal news conference on Tuesday afternoon to rule out what he has always said he would not do: serve as the Republican nominee for president in 2016.
"Let me be clear," Mr Ryan said, addressing reporters at the Republican National Committee's headquarters. "I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination of our party."
He then offered a strong opinion to convention delegates about how they should proceed in the case of a contested nomination: "If no candidate has the majority on the first ballot, I believe you should only turn to a person who has participated in the primary. Count me out."
Speculation about his intentions has escalated in recent weeks as large segments of the Republican Party are in despair over its two leading candidates, Mr Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a state of play that Mr Ryan's aides say has become an increasing distraction.
But in some ways, the Speaker's staff had added to that speculation, producing one campaign-style video depicting Mr Ryan as an above- the-fray politician seeking a "battle of ideas" and another as a ready-on- day-one leader taking a tour of the Middle East.
The circus surrounding what in any other year would be a statement of the obvious - a newly installed Speaker of the House does not wish to undo the will of thousands of voters and delegates in the dark of night at his party's convention - is simply the latest strange turn in a race replete with them.
And with each twist, it seemed, more Republicans not aligned with Mr Trump or Mr Cruz saw an elegant solution in Mr Ryan.
On Tuesday, he said he would have none of it. "I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee - to be the president - you should actually run for it," said Mr Ryan, who will be the convention chairman. "I chose not to. Therefore, I should not be considered. Period. I just think it would be wrong to go any other way."
He could have easily reiterated his denials through a clearly worded news release. But by choosing to appear before the cameras and in front of four American flags at the Republican National Committee, he purposefully used the moment to call for a different, sunnier brand of conservatism than the grievance-oriented politics that have propelled Mr Trump to the top of the Republican race.
"I believe we can once again be that optimistic party that is defined by a belief in the limitless possibility of our people," he said.
NEW YORK TIMES