When questions remain unanswered, they invite others, with less of a stake or of any agenda, to supply responses. If six friends can’t decide where to go to dinner, but one really wants to go to a movie, there is a good chance the gang will end up at a prime time showing of “Ted.”
Such appears to be the case with Mitt Romney’s long anticipated announcement of a vice-presidential pick. For months the pundits have ping-ponged between Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman. At various times, a decision seemed imminent, only for Mr. Romney to escape to Europe, or on a bus tour or somehow push the story off for another day.
And without a pick forthcoming from him, the Republican Party’s fiscal conservative wing appears to have come up with their own pick: Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
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.
The Weekly Standard has also chimed in, with William Kristol and Stephen Hayes writing:
There are other VP picks under consideration who bring a lot to the ticket – especially, perhaps, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie. We’d be very pleased to see either of them on the ticket. But if your campaign is “about telling people we’ve got to cut back on our spending and finally live within our means or we could face economic calamity,” then there’s an awfully strong case for picking Paul Ryan as your running mate.
Four months after capturing the nomination, Mr. Romney remains someone not especially beloved by the GOP faithful. They like him, sure. They desperately hopes he beats Obama, yes. But still one gets the sense that they are burdened by the fact that once again the party chose the establishment pick as its nominee, even in these most Tea Partying of times. To wit, yesterday, after Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said that steelworkers laid off by Bain Capital would have been able to afford health care if they had lived in Massachusetts, where Mr. Romney mandated everyone have it, Ann Coulter suggested donors hold on to their cash.
And so, although if Mr. Romney had picked Mr. Ryan a few weeks ago, there surely would have been cheers in the GOP cheering section, now he almost has to pick him just to quell the nascent revolt.
There is only one problem: Picking Paul Ryan to be his running mate would be an unmitigated disaster. Already, Democrats have made Mr. Ryan’s calling card—the Ryan Budget, with its deep cuts to entitlement programs, into an epithet. After Mr. Romney called the budget “marvelous,” Mr. Obama mocked him for it.
How unpopular is Paul Ryan? Ask Kathy Hochul. The Democrat was running in a deeply Republican seat for a special election in 2011 when her campaign made the Ryan Budget the central issue of the race. Ever since, no Republican has been able to run for Congress or for pretty much anything else without dancing around the question.
For the GOP base, the list of things they are willing to forgive Mr. Romney over is long—earlier waffling on abortion rights, the health care mandate, a certain lack of NASCAR cred. On each, Mr. Romney disappoints. Picking Paul Ryan would endear him to many on the right, but with the great risk of giving him campaign an extra burden.
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