Even as he continues to be the chief salesman for the House Republicans' budget plan, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is not ruling out a new role.
The House Budget Committee chairman said in a televised interview on Sunday that he could announce a decision on whether he will run for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., as soon as this week.
"I plan on making an announcement very quickly," Ryan told host Candy Crowley on CNN's State Of The Union. When Crowley pressed him and asked, "This week maybe we'll hear?" Ryan responded, "Yes."
Kohl's the surprise announcement on Friday that he will retire rather than run for reelection in 2012 created something of a dilemma for Ryan: the rare Senate vacancy could be a golden opportunity for the rising Republican star at the very moment that he is playing a key role in the House -- a role that has put him in the center of considerable political controversy concerning his budget proposal's plans for Medicare.
It also put yet another seat in play for Republicans; Democrats are already facing an uphill climb and playing a lot of defense, with few opportunities of their own to pick up seats.
Other Republicans looking at jumping into the race include former Gov. Tommy Thompson and former Rep. Mark Neumann. Whatever move Ryan makes is likely to affect their decisions. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and former Rep. Mark Green are also contemplating bids.
On the Democratic side, the names being mentioned include Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Kind.
Former Sen. Russ Feingold is also mentioned as a possibility. However, a close associate -- while not ruling out a comeback for the Democrat -- characterized it as a long shot.
“Running for office in 2012 is not something Russ is eager to do or has been planning to do," Mary Irvine, his former chief of staff, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Friday. "He is very committed to his current projects -- teaching law at Marquette University Law School, [working with] Progressives United, and writing a book about American foreign policy. He will come to a decision, in the coming months, after consulting with family and friends and people in Wisconsin.”