On Wednesday night, that sort of happened, and sort of didn't.
However, that is not enough for a formal endorsement. According to the Freedom Caucus's rules, 80 percent of its members must agree for that to happen. And Ryan didn't get there. Around 13 of the caucus's 40-odd members (there's no public membership list) wouldn't back him — he was just five votes or so shy of the endorsement.
The ball is in Ryan's court now
What happens next is unclear. Technically, Ryan's conditions have not been met — but they almost were. He could simply choose to interpret this supermajority support as an "endorsement," and run for speaker.
Indeed, top Freedom Caucus members insisted after the meeting that Ryan would have the 218 votes necessary to be elected speaker on the floor — signifying that they wouldn't make trouble for him.
House Freedom Caucus voted to support Paul Ryan - not an official endorsement. Mulvaney says ryan now has votes to be Speaker— Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrewalshcnn) October 21, 2015
Labrador says he hopes HFC "supermajority" and "offer of support" is enough for Ryan pic.twitter.com/HG4GwB6XRN— Robert Costa (@costareports) October 22, 2015
And the official Freedom Caucus release heaped praise on Ryan — but also stressed that its members wouldn't necessarily accept Ryan's "preconditions for serving," which notably include a rules change that would dilute their power:
FREEDOM CAUCUS STATEMENT pic.twitter.com/uAmiqywz9A— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) October 22, 2015
So the question is whether all this is good enough for Ryan. Does he think this is sufficient to pave the way to a more functional House of Representatives? Or does he think that without full support and without the rules change, he's doomed to end up like Boehner did?
Update: Ryan's response seems to imply he'll treat this as an endorsement and run for speaker.
My statement after a meeting of the House Freedom Caucus: pic.twitter.com/lxmzBrUcms— Paul Ryan (@PRyan) October 22, 2015