WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan, a close observer of the 2016 campaign, still thinks about his unsuccessful race for vice president four years ago.

“My 9th grade daughter was just elected high school vice president,” Ryan said. “Goes to show that at least someone in my family can get elected vice president.”

On his biggest regret about his own campaign — he ran on a ticket with Mittt Romney — Ryan said he wished he’d focused more on a coherent policy agenda.

“I’ve always believed [Republicans] win ideas’ contests and we lose personality contests,” Ryan said. “If we allow a campaign to get thrown into being a personality contest, that won’t go well for us.”

When moderator and Economic Club President David Rubenstein asked if Ryan prepared for his vice presidential debate in 2012, he laughed and replied, “I know where you’re going with this.”   

“Does preparation help?

“It does, David.”

Ryan said the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump “froze the playing field,” but did not change the dynamic in the race considering how close the polls are heading into October. How much — or how little — Trump prepared for the confrontation with Clinton was a hot topic Monday night.

Ryan, R-Wis., added that while he would “never say never” about running for president, it’s not in  his foreseeable future.

“I have presidential size policy ambition,” the unapologetically wonkish Ryan said. “I’ve never had presidential size personal ambition.”
Ryan said he only agreed to seek the House speaker’s job after former Speaker John Boehner pulled out all the stops to convince him to go for it, even employing “Catholic guilt” by having New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan give him a call.

In his role as speaker, Ryan said he liked to halt the repeated use of continuing resolutions infeasible as a stopgap way to fund government: “We don’t want to have autopilot government forever.”  

Ryan said he would prefer to implement biennial budgeting legislation and pass individual appropriations bills.

On foreign policy, Ryan said the U.S. has been too reactive and “we’re not reacting very well right now.

”What is it that gets a 12 year old boy in a madrassa in Peshawar to get radicalized and become tomorrow’s ISIS leader?”

He also promoted the Better Way Agenda, the House Republicans’ policy on poverty, healthcare, regulations, tax reform, and executive power, calling it his “greatest joy” of his time as Speaker and arguing that passing it soon is of vital importance.