Saturday morning, Romney announced his VP pick to be Ryan — no, not Ryan Seacrest — Paul Ryan, budget wizard and Wisconsin representative. Ryan is arguably the most prominent Republican in the House. He is young (42), personable and energetic and has over a decade in Congress. He knows how Washington works and why it doesn’t.
Also, like Romney, he appears to be clean. Everyone has skeletons, especially politicians, but as far as anyone knows to date, the Romney-Ryan ticket may be the cleanest duo since Batman and Robin. It would be a surprise if a real scandal related to either man was uncovered. This may not win them an election but it should win them some fence-sitters.
Ryan is considered the go-to-guy regarding the budget. Nobody in Congress possesses the detailed knowledge he does which is why he chairs the House Budget Committee.
Ryan also knows how to campaign, in fact, he’s never lost an election. He’s 7-0. He has successfully defended his seat against both Democrats and Libertarians. During his first campaign Ryan received 57% of the vote. This is the lowest of his career. Since, he has never dipped below 63%, typically pulling in 67-68% range. In 2010 he earned 68% of the vote.
He is one of the three co-founders of the Young Guns Program, an electoral recruitment and campaign effort by House Republicans. He, along with Rubio, Walker, and other young conservatives is symbolic of the future for the Republican party.
But like all of us, Ryan is not perfect.
He has been on Romney’s short list for months so there’s no doubt the Left has a dossier and media packet on Ryan already prepared for shipping. The Left will also unroll articles comparing Ryan to other short-list folks like Portman (much more “real” experience) or Rubio (could have delivered Florida) to make Ryan appear a weaker pick than he is.
A lack of foreign policy experience will be something the Left tries to exploit. This will create a few headlines but Republicans should be capable of over-coming the criticism by pointing out this election is more about getting our house in order than world affairs. Besides, Obama had no foreign policy credentials a few years back and he was running for the top spot, not VP.
Ryan has proposed an aggressive plan that includes substantial changes to entitlements. Obama mocked it on live television — with Ryan seated in the front row — and the Democrats have already sliced and diced it. Now, with Ryan directly involved in the election, this plan will become a prominent issue. Already distorted, the Left will continue to have at it. To his credit, Ryan is a communicator, so if anyone can effectively walk the common folk through some of the plan details, it’s him.
He’s also likely to be labeled extreme or a hard-Right tea-bagger with draconian outlooks. This is a heavy distortion as Ryan’s “yes” votes on the bank bailouts and on Medicare expansion program prove. But it fits in well with the Left’s tired rhetoric — ‘Republicans want dirty water, polluted air and will abandon the old and poor’.
Many will ask if Ryan on the ticket will put Wisconsin in play? Except it already is. Sure, Obama won Wisconsin by 14% in 2008. That’s huge. But today, that has been trimmed down to about 6%. And don’t forget the message Wisconsin sent during the Walker recall. The better question is — can Ryan deliver Wisconsin? That is unknown but what is known is that Obama and the Democrats, still black and blue from the beating they took during the recall, will now be compelled to spend time and money in Wisconsin, perhaps to the detriment of a different swing state.
Because Ryan is a communicator he should hold his own during the VP debate. Ryan is not a punch-line kind of guy so Biden may score a jab or two. But if properly prepped, Ryan should be able to counter. And if the debate actually delves into issues of substance, Ryan is likely to badly embarrass Biden and show him as the buffoon he is. Ryan’s expertise on budget matters should help bring Romney up to speed, too.
Romney’s selection of Ryan has, intentionally or unintentionally, changed the nature of election. Probably not as much as most pundits think. The economy will remain the primary issue but now political ideology has been introduced. Team Romney must be confident the common folk want to hear about fiscal responsibility and changes to entitlements — complete with fine details. Ryan offers this. Obama wins here also as he now has ideological distortions to exploit. Both sides, particularly the super PACs, will play to this — do you want the anti-America radical Left or the rich loving polluters on the Right — but the reality is voters that answer to strict ideology have already made their decision. Independents aren’t likely to be swayed by the well worn cliches. It is likely to boil down to who the voters feel can get us out of this mess.
People vote for president not VP. But if there is one politician in America currently capable of explaining America’s nasty financial situation, in painful detail, it is Ryan. The Left, by pushing ideology, will guarantee Ryan has to break out the charts. But that’s a Ryan strength.
Like every candidate, Ryan has some shortcomings. But his positives far out distance his negatives. And compared to Biden as a VP, he’s gold. Ryan is informed, intelligent, and a proven leader. He isn’t an elite live audience orator but there are few better with television interviews and presentations. Romney definitely could have made a worse choice. He may not have been able to make a better one.
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