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Why not Paul Ryan?


Over on the front page, Becket argues that fiscal hawk Paul Ryan would be a poor choice for Mitt Romney to choose for the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket.  But for a number of reasons, I'm going to throw out my disagreement here and argue that dismissing Ryan is the wrong choice.

Becket correctly identifies Ryan as "an incredibly strong fiscal conservative" and "unabashed champion of free market principles," yet insists that his position as chair of the House Budget Committee is too important to give up in the GOP's "long-term strategies" of balancing the budget and reducing the national deficit.  I don't disagree with either of these points -- in theory.

Paul Ryan is a champ, but with the GOP poised to retain the House majority, losing Ryan as a committee head would be relatively inconsequential as GOP leadership can name any other conservative-minded member of Congress to take up the helm in Ryan's absence.  As we've seen, having a great voice on the House Budget Committee gets us nowhere as long as Barack Obama is in the White House.  In this regard, Ryan's potential to boost and energize the Romney ticket could be just what the GOP needs to oust Obama and make real, lasting changes in the way our federal government operates.

John Adams may have identified the vice presidency as "laborious" and "wholly insignificant," but with no offense toward Mr. Adams, the role of the vice president has changed dramatically since the days of Adams' tenure.  The constitutional framework of the vice presidency largely limits his power to presiding over the U.S. Senate.  But no modern vice president has strictly adhered to this rule.  Take, for instance, the role Vice President Dick Cheney played in the Bush administration.  Would anyone honestly argue that Cheney's influence in matters of foreign and domestic policy were "wholly insignificant"?  Indeed, the role of the modern vice president is now only limited by his/her vision for the office and the directives of the chief executive.

I'd also point to an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal which further makes my case: Why not Paul Ryan? (emphases mine)

The case for Mr. Ryan is that he best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election. More than any other politician, the House Budget Chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline.

Against the advice of every Beltway bedwetter, he has put entitlement reform at the center of the public agenda—before it becomes a crisis that requires savage cuts. And he has done so as part of a larger vision that stresses tax reform for faster growth, spending restraint to prevent a Greek-like budget fate, and a Jack Kemp-like belief in opportunity for all. He represents the GOP's new generation of reformers that includes such Governors as Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and New Jersey's Chris Christie.

As important, Mr. Ryan can make his case in a reasonable and unthreatening way. He doesn't get mad, or at least he doesn't show it. Like Reagan, he has a basic cheerfulness and Midwestern equanimity. ...

Personalities aside, the larger strategic point is that Mr. Romney's best chance for victory is to make this a big election over big issues. Mr. Obama and the Democrats want to make this a small election over small things—Mitt's taxes, his wealth, Bain Capital. As the last two months have shown, Mr. Romney will lose that kind of election.

To win, Mr. Romney and the Republicans have to rise above those smaller issues and cast the choice as one about the overall direction and future of the country.

As Wisconsin voters showed earlier this year in rebuffing calls to recall Gov. Scott Walker, Americans are desperate for principled leadership from politicians willing to take on the hard issues no one else will.  And even if they aren't always successful, Americans respect those who try and fail more than those who never bother.

With so many voters having doubts about Romney's ability to right the ship, Paul Ryan is exactly the kind of candidate with exactly the kind of message America needs in November.

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