Open Thread: Will Paul Ryan Play a Part in GOP Nomination?

In May of this year when Rep. Paul Ryan had released his budget plan, Newt Gingrich described the plan as "too big a jump" and "right-wing social engineering." Ryan responded, "with allies like that, who needs the Left?" Gingrich's campaign was nearly ended, and much of his staff quit shortly after. After a public backlash, Gingrich apologized to Ryan, but the episode still didn't leave the minds of many. Now seven months later, Gingrich adviser Greg Ganske says that Gingrich is in a strong position to win over Ryan supporters, but a new Mitt Romney campaign ad is hoping to prevent that from happening.

Do you think Paul Ryan could play a major role in who voters decide to support? Check out more analysis after the break, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

According to National Review's Robert Costa, there is a battle in the GOP primary for the "fiscal-conservative mantle." Many GOP voters respect Ryan, so any guidance or endorsement from Ryan could shape their views.

Ryan, the influential budget-committee chairman, may not endorse a candidate before January, but the competition to be seen as a Ryan ally is intense, says one GOP insider. Romney’s latest ads, the insider says, are part of what Republican strategists dub the "Ryan primary," with Romney and Gingrich eager to be identified as fellow travelers.

Gingrich, for his part, hasn’t backed down from the challenge, telling CNBC’s Larry Kudlow last week that he, not Romney, is the true economic maverick in the race, regardless of Team Romney’s snipes. "I was part of [Jack] Kemp’s little cabal of supply-siders," he said, marking his connection to Kemp, the late GOP congressman and Ryan mentor.

At the moment, it seems Romney is ahead of Gingrich, at least in the fiscal-conservative race. He met with Ryan in October to discuss entitlement reform ideas before penning a USA Today op-ed, and Ryan approved by saying Romney is "willing to be bold and specific on the big issues. Romney's new campaign ad only further highlights the importance of Ryan.

Gingrich supporters warn not to assume that Ryan and his supporters will not support Gingrich, pointing to recent comments by Ryan that he would happily work for Gingrich if he won the presidency. According to Ryan, Gingrich "misspoke, he acknowledged it as much, he said that he misspoke, and I’m just going to leave it at that," going on to add, "We all share the same end goal."

Do you think Ryan could have enough influence to sway voters one way or the other? Who do you think he would endorse?

2012 Presidential Campaigns & Elections Open Thread