With his youthful earnestness, genial personality and devotion to conservative policy, Paul Ryan enjoyed a special stature within GOP even before he became House speaker late last year.
John Boehner had resigned in frustration with his fractious caucus, and colleagues pressed Ryan to take over the job, three years after his unsuccessful bid as Mitt Romney's running mate.
Now the raucous 2016 presidential race — which Ryan considered, then decided not to enter — is posing fresh challenges. Criticizing some statements by GOP front-runner Donald Trump but pledging to support him if nominated, Ryan has been leading his colleagues toward developing their own conservative agenda to be unveiled before this summer's Republican convention.
The 46-year-old Irish-American speaker sat down with me this week to discuss those challenges over a glass of Guinness in the Capitol, hours after he hosted President Barack Obama and Ireland's prime minister at a luncheon. What follows is a condensed, edited transcript of our conversation.
HARWOOD: You've got to be really happy you didn't run for president this year.
RYAN: Yes. I think that's probably a totally, completely fair thing to say. I looked into it. For lots of reasons I didn't do it, namely phase of life, family reasons, our kids are pretty young.