The 2012 Presidential Election just got real: GOP nominee Mitt Romney has selected Wisconsin representative and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan, the author of the Republican-approved Path to Prosperity budget proposal (often simply referred to as the “Ryan Plan”) that sought to rein in long-term deficit spending by reforming Medicare, is a dedicated fiscal conservative and is considered by many to be the de facto intellectual leader of the Republican Party. His selection has definitely set the conservative wing of the GOP on fire with enthusiasm, but the Democrats are now savagely chomping at the bit to attack Ryan’s budget plan and to portray him as a heartless Randian who wants to push Medicare-dependent seniors over the cliff.
Ryan brings many electoral benefits to the ticket. The young congressman will likely add a hefty dose of energy to the Romney campaign that could help with the youth vote; even though Romney adheres to a strictly sober style, his campaign has sometimes come across as too lethargic. A devoted Catholic, Ryan will shore up support among Christian conservatives who have been leery of Romney’s Mormon faith while also increasing the ticket’s attractiveness to independent Catholics. He is a blue-collar Wisconsinite, adding a much-needed “common man appeal” that contrasts with Romney’s privileged upbringing. His Midwestern roots will also be appreciated in the critical swing states of Ohio, Iowa, and, of course, Wisconsin. Yes, Ryan’s presence on the ticket, coupled with strong support from Governor Scott Walker (particularly strong support now that a fellow Wisconsinite is in the VP slot) will undoubtedly force Wisconsin into play and likely into the GOP column. Having served seven terms in the House of Representatives, Ryan’s record is well-known and so the chance that the press (or the Democrats, for that matter) will uncover any Palin-esque skeletons is minimal.
However, tapping Ryan does bring one potential danger: The president will attempt to use Ryan’s budget against him and thereby direct public attention away from his own failed economic policies. To counter this, Romney must make it exceedingly clear that his selection of Ryan does not mean that the GOP ticket’s primary purpose is to privatize Medicare or institute draconian budget cuts as the President will surely claim. Rather, the selection of the fiscally-focused Ryan reinforces Romney’s assertion that his candidacy is about one thing above all else: Jobs. However, Ryan’s intellectualism and bravery to think big would effectively supplement a Romney administration after the unemployment crisis is abated and the national focus shifts to tackling the ballooning national debt. This further highlights the strongly complementary nature of this political duo. Romney brings a lifetime of private sector Outside-the-Beltway corporate experience and a deep understanding of the business cycle to the ticket, while Ryan brings a wealth of Inside-the-Beltway political experience and an expert’s knowledge on how to get things done in government.
But even more importantly, the selection of Ryan sends the message that Romney will push for policies that he believes are best for this country, even if they may be politically unpopular. In the Congress, Ryan committed an action that common sense says is virtual suicide in today’s sickly political quagmire – he proposed a budget that dared to touch the sacred stone of entitlement spending. It was a perilous choice, but Ryan made it because he knows that this country faces an even more perilous choice. America must choose whether to do what is difficult – to reform our social entitlements and government spending to ensure that the welfare we enjoy today can be sustained for future generations – or to do what is easy – to attempt to sustain an unsustainable status quo by either bankrupting our children or taxing the wealthy to the point where the concepts of success and upward mobility are no longer part of the American Dream. When he chose to make Ryan his vice presidential candidate, Romney set in stone his overarching electoral message – that Romney-Ryan is a ticket and the GOP is a political party that are both willing to make tough decisions for the good of greater good. Hopefully, America will also be willing to do what at times may seem difficult but what it also knows is right and necessary.