If Republicans think that their Medicare privatization plan is an albatross around their necks now, just see what they try to do if they nominate the author of that plan to be their standard bearer in 2012.

Count House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as one top Republican who’d like to see Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) jump into the presidential race.

Cantor responded immediately when asked Monday whether Ryan, a rising GOP star and author of the party’s official budget plan, should run for the White House in 2012.

“Sure,” Cantor said. “Paul’s about real leadership. I think that that’s what this public so desperately wants to do right now. They don’t want to see individuals that just dismiss problems that we can just sweep under the rug.”

I don’t think this is going to happen. Ryan was asked several times on Meet the Press whether he would run and he repeatedly ruled it out. He didn’t even want to seek office in the US Senate in Wisconsin despite an open seat. The House Budget Committee perch is a powerful one, and there’s no reason for Ryan to give it up.

However, the lure of the Presidency is pretty unmistakable. And Republicans are seemingly dissatisfied with their choices in the 2012 race, which at this point come down to Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman, with various other hangers-on and longshots in the mix. And Ryan’s name is one that keeps coming up as a late entry. While he denied running in 2012 on MTP, he left the door open for down the road. And where there’s smoke, there can be fire.

Republicans already ignored their own pollsters in swallowing the Ryan budget, despite its extreme unpopularity. I don’t see why they wouldn’t accept Ryan as the nominee, making their party clearly the party of ending Medicare, despite polling concerns. After all, what would piss off liberals more? That’s really their MO, anyway.

Incidentally, this SHOULD be the choice before the American people in 2012. This seems to be the point of greatest difference between the parties, whether or not to phase out Medicare. Why not have a great debate on it, with the leaders of each party’s view at the top? At least we’d then know where everyone stands.