ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
House Speaker Paul Ryan held a news conference in Washington today to put to rest speculation that he could somehow emerge as the Republican nominee for president. NPR congressional reporter Susan Davis is on the line with us now. Hi, Susan.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What did Speaker Ryan have to say today?
DAVIS: Paul Ryan is not running for president. Here's how the speaker put it today at a press conference he called at the Republican National Committee.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
PAUL RYAN: We have too much work to do in the House to allow this speculation to swirl or to have my motivations questioned. So let me be clear. I do not want nor will I accept the nomination for our party.
DAVIS: So that was a fairly Shermanesque statement, we can say...
DAVIS: ...You know? And let's remember. Paul Ryan could've run for president in 2016, and he thought about running for president. And he chose not to run long before he became speaker. If you include today's declaration, he has now publicly states that he has no interest in the nomination at least 20 times...
SHAPIRO: Uh-huh (laughter).
DAVIS: ...Since January of last year. So maybe today will finally settle the question.
SHAPIRO: But I have to ask you, Sue, will he actually be the nominee - no, no, I'm...
SHAPIRO: The reason I ask - so look; he said he didn't want to be the speaker of the House, and he became speaker of the House. So what's up?
DAVIS: Yeah. So I mean obviously he has a recent track record of getting jobs he didn't want and didn't ask for. So that has certainly fueled the conversation. But he said it's an unfair comparison to talk about how he became speaker and how one could get the nomination. Let's listen to that.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
RYAN: I was asked by my colleagues to take a responsibility within Congress that I've already been serving in from the one that I had. That is entirely different than getting the nomination for president of the United States by your party without even running for the job.
DAVIS: So he says, I was in the House; I got a job in the House. I'm not in the race. I can't get the nomination. And he reiterated his belief that the nominee should be someone who has run in the primaries or is running in the primaries. And he said that is exactly what he will tell delegates if the nominee is not decided before the convention in Cleveland this July.
SHAPIRO: OK, so while Paul Ryan delivers this very clear, unequivocal message, he is also delivering speeches, crafting a national policy agenda. He went to Israel and met with foreign leaders over the Easter break, which looks like what candidates do when they're planning to run for president (laughter).
DAVIS: Absolutely, but it's also not that weird for a new speaker to be doing all of those things. It's the timing more than the actions themselves. He said today when he was on that trip overseas that everywhere he went, he was asked about the presidential race. And he finds this really frustrating. And his aides say he's really frustrated by this, that it's a distraction, and it's not the conversation he wants to be having. But in some ways today, this is not about Paul Ryan and more about Donald Trump.
SHAPIRO: Explain what you mean by that.
DAVIS: OK, so this is stating the obvious, but there's a lot of discontent in the party establishment at the prospect of Trump as the nominee. For instance, Paul Ryan's running mate, Mitt Romney, is one of those Republicans. So it's those corners of the party where a lot of this conversation is taking place, and it's that wing of the party that would much rather see a candidate like Paul Ryan emerge as the nominee. But despite his best efforts, there's just been endless speculation, and he wants it to stop. And Paul Ryan has said he will support whoever the nominee is, even if that nominee is Donald Trump.
SHAPIRO: NPR congressional reporter Susan Davis, thanks.
DAVIS: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.