WASHINGTON -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) puzzled some last week when he appeared to try to distance himself from his known love of philosopher Ayn Rand.
But his move didn't sour relations with The Atlas Society, a group that actively promotes Rand's capitalist vision and one that Ryan spoke to in 2005 about how Rand inspired him to enter public service. In fact, the group's spokesman doubled down this week and endorsed Ryan for president.
"I'd like to see Paul Ryan as president one day," Edward Hudgins, director of advocacy at The Atlas Society, said Tuesday in an interview with The Huffington Post.
"I'd love to see him as president or as vice president on the ticket coming up because I know what the man's values are: They're admirable values," Hudgins said. "To what extent he considers himself in agreement with Ayn Rand, as a public figure, a public policy person, you're not going to find them a lot better."
Ryan's name has been floated as a potential running mate for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He said in March that he would "consider" a vice presidential run if presented with the opportunity.
The increased national attention may be why Ryan told National Review last week that he flatly rejected Rand's philosophy and called it "atheist." Hudgins said he wasn't sure why Ryan, who is Catholic, suddenly shot down Rand's views, but guessed he was specifically talking about her religious beliefs.
"I wish he would be more nuanced," Hudgins said. "Whether he's suddenly saying, 'I reject all of her philosophy,' well, I would simply say, 'Well, that's not what you were saying a few years ago.'"
Ryan spokesman Kevin Seifert did not respond to a request for comment on Hudgins' presidential and vice presidential endorsements. He told The Huffington Post last week that Ryan's comments about rejecting Rand were "simply meant to correct a popular falsehood that Congressman Ryan is an Objectivist -- he isn't now and never claimed to be."
Earlier this week, The Atlas Society released an audio recording of Ryan's speech to the group in 2005. Most of Ryan's comments from the event had previously been reported, but one new piece is Ryan citing Rand's philosophy of valuing the individual over the collective as a guiding force for privatizing Social Security.
"There is no more fight that is more obvious between the differences of these two conflicts than Social Security. Social Security right now is a collectivist system. It's a welfare transfer system," he said. "I would like to have more people on our team who are owners and believers in the individualist-capitalist system than on the other side."
Ryan said that moving the nation's health care system "to a consumer-based individualist system" and turning Social Security into "an individually, pre-owned, pre-fund retirement system" would hugely change the dynamics of U.S. society for the better.
Hudgins said that if Rand were alive today, she would endorse Ryan's approach to budgeting. His budget plan would cut $6 trillion in part by slashing funding for programs that help the poor, including anti-hunger programs and Pell Grants for low-income students. His proposal also calls for replacing Medicare with a voucher-like system.
"One of the things Rand would be proud of him for -- I don't know if he'd like that I'm saying this -- he is one of the people trying to face objective reality and not put his head in the sand concerning the budget," Hudgins said.