10 reasons Ryan is the perfect running mate for Romney
THE DAILY BLADE: How does the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate help presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney? Let us count the ways:
1. Not wanting to run on his failed record, Obama campaign surrogates and Super-PACs have accused Romney of off-shoring his income to offing a former steelworker’s wife. Romney’s choice of Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, sends the message to President Barack Hussein Obama “It’s the economy, stupid” and that’s what he will center his campaign around. Ryan reinforced Romney’s rationale for giving him the nod in his speech when he promised:
We won’t duck the tough issues … we will lead! We won’t blame others…we will take responsibility! We won’t replace our founding principles…we will reapply them! We will honor you, our fellow citizens, by giving you the right and opportunity to make the choice: We can turn this thing around. Real solutions can be delivered. But, it will take leadership. And the courage to tell you the truth.
In choosing Ryan, Romney swatted away all the irrelevant distractions buzzing around his campaign. It’s only the middle of August, but the political silly season is over.
2. After four years of a president who led from behind, Americans want boldness, political courage and leadership. Ryan has demonstrated all three qualities by taking on entitlement reform – the proverbial “third rail” of politics. And Romney has done so as well, by resisting the temptation of a “safer” (read, blander and less controversial) running mate – say Sen. Rob Portman (OH) or former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN). As New York Times numbers cruncher Nat Silver observes, conflicting poll results “presents the opportunity to read the evidence in jaded or biased ways”:
Mr. Romney's campaign could have cherry-picked the polls that showed him ahead, the worst economic statistics, the most favorable historical precedents, and concluded that it was a favorite.
Evidently, it did not do that. The ability to perform an honest self-assessment is rare for all of us. Mr. Romney, in making this outlook, may have been aided by his background in seeking to turn around distressed companies.
Onetime Romney adviser Mike Murphy tells National Review Online that Ryan “is the kind of smart, young guy that Mitt likes and Mitt would have probably hired at Bain,” adding, “He shares the intellectual talent and positive outlook of the guys who Mitt mentored for decades.”
3. Even after three straight months of poor job growth and a stubbornly high unemployment rate, Romney has been unable to get any traction with his criticisms of Obama’s failed policies, however pointed. Voters want specifics, and a Gallup survey in June found that only 40 percent think Obama "has a clear plan for solving the country's problems," with nearly the same percentage (38 percent) saying the same thing about Romney. At least as regards the budget, fiscal policy, taxes and entitlement programs Romney now has Ryan’s very specific proposals – though he will no doubt put his own stamp on them – which gives the base and Tea Partiers something to rally around.
4. Romney has now turned the tables on Obama, increasing pressure on him to put up equally detailed proposals of his own instead of merely attacking the “Romney-Ryan plan.” Ryan’s fiscal year 2012 budget (“Path to Prosperity I”) passed the House 235 to 193, and the House voted 228-191 to approve his fiscal year 2013 budget (“Path to Prosperity II”). The Democrat-controlled Senate shot down both budgets – but then, both houses of Congress resoundingly rejected Obama’s budget with not a single legislator from either party voting for it. It is unlikely that Obama will be able to offer a completely retooled budget plan between now and Election Day because he has repeatedly demonstrated that he has run out of new ideas and keeps proposing the same rejected ideas over and over.
5. Ryan is a Washington insider, and knows how to get legislation passed. He has spent 14 of his 42 years representing his state in Congress, and before that he logged in several years as an aide to Sens. Robert Kasten (WI), and Sam Brownback (KS) and as a speechwriter for the late Jack Kemp. Romney lacks Ryan’s knowledge of Congress – during a debate in February, former Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul were forced to explain the earmarking process to Romney and why a presidential line-item veto is nothing more than empty campaign rhetoric. Ryan touted the inside/outside balance in his speech:
I believe my record of getting things done in Congress will be a very helpful complement to Governor Romney’s executive and private sector success outside Washington. I have worked closely with Republicans as well as Democrats to advance an agenda of economic growth, fiscal discipline, and job creation.
In a recent interview, Peter Wehner, a former Bush and Reagan administration official and a friend of Ryan’s likens the two men as being “intelligent and very empirically minded, driven by facts,” and infers that, “When he looks at Ryan, Romney probably sees somebody like himself, a person he’d want at his side in the business world or the political world.”
6. The race that has gotten unusually ugly unusually quickly, and voters are frustrated with the time wasted on tit-for-tat instead of discussing issues that matter to them. An economist, Ryan is not only a walking compendium of economic data, but his colleagues on both sides of the aisle consider him affable and personable because Ryan possesses the rare gift of being relentless in pursuing an argument while remaining “reasonable and unthreatening,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Or, as New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait notes in an unflattering profile published in May, Ryan comes off as “America’s neighborhood accountant, a man devoted to the task of restoring our fiscal health, whatever slings and arrows may come his way”). For this reason, Obama and his surrogates will look mean-spirited if they personalize their criticism of the Ryan budget, so they are forced to fight on Ryan’s turf – and discuss numbers, statistics, dollar figures and other data that he can rattle off effortlessly.
7. Ryan delivers the conservatives and Tea Partiers who have remained cool to Romney – not just voters in the election, but also Congressional legislators who will help pass Romney’s proposals with the same vigor that they blocked Obama’s. During the 2010 midterm elections, Ryan “fielded more than 100 requests for information [about his proposed entitlement reforms] from candidates,” The Weekly Standard reports. “Many of them would soon be incoming House freshmen, a fact that allowed Ryan to establish relationships with people who would later become his most enthusiastic supporters. They included rising stars such as Rep. Kristi Noem (SD), Marco Rubio (FL) and Pat Toomey (PA), meaning that Ryan has coattails and his ideas will have legs well beyond the 2012 election.
8. Romney’s choosing a rock-solid conservative with a libertarian streak – John Podhoretz calls him “the most honest and most unapologetic Republican in the country” instead of a “safer” (read, blander and less controversial) running mate – say Sen. Rob Portman (OH) or former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN) – also sends a strong signal to conservatives who parse his every word to look for signs of flip-flopping that he means it when he says he will repeal ObamaCare, lower taxes and reform entitlements. Fears of Romney’s constancy were stoked anew when his spokesperson Andrea Saul responded to that scurrilous Priorities USA ad blaming Bain Capital and Romney for the cancer death of an unemployed steelworker’s wife by pointing out that, “Well, if people had been in Massachusetts they would have had health care.”
The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza argues that Romney had no choice but to make “the most daring decision of his political career” and press the reset button on his campaign:
In recent weeks, as Romney’s favorable ratings declined, some encouraging economic news dribbled out, and Obama’s poll numbers ticked up, a loud faction of Republicans began pointing out that Romney’s theory of the campaign was wrong. Their argument was that Romney needed to turn the race into more of an ideological debate. He needed, these Republicans said, to embrace a bold policy agenda that would dramatically contrast with Obama’s. Nobody made this case more loudly than Paul Ryan. Presidential candidates shouldn’t “run on vague platitudes and generalities,” he told me in one interview. “I want a full-throated defense for an alternative agenda that fixes the country’s problems,” he said in another.
Fred Barnes makes the same point:
Romney showed that, like a smart businessman, he knows his shortcomings. For all his attacks on Obama’s economic policies, Romney has failed to create a sense of urgency about the country’s faltering economic situation. And without a national fear of an impending catastrophe, he can’t defeat Obama.
Romney’s solution is to “get someone who can,” notes Washington consultant David Smick, a friend of Ryan.
The Washington Postadds that Ryan “has the potential to make Romney a better candidate. … With Ryan on the stage next to him, Romney is more animated and relaxed and seemingly comfortable in having Ryan add firepower and heft to his message about the economy and the deficit.”
9. It’s debatable whether Ryan will help Romney carry WI – a battleground state, whose residents proved they are receptive to reining in out-of-control government spending by voting to stick with Gov. Scott Walker in a union-backed recall election (related article, second item). But Ryan will be as popular with Republican voters in other swing and Dem-leaning states as their own favorite sons who were passed over, so his selection doesn’t mean that Romney has killed his chances of capturing IA, OH, and VA. And while a case can be made that Portman could have delivered OH – perhaps the ultimate bellwether state – Ryan’s national profile may prove a sum that is greater than the parts. As The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes puts it: “The case for Ryan is simple: No one, with the possible exception of Marco Rubio, would do more to energize the conservative base and unite the party. Rush Limbaugh would praise the pick, but so would David Brooks and nearly everyone in between.”
10. Ryan can explain how the dismal science can predict our dismal future in terms that the average voter can understand, and is regarded as a straight-shooter who doesn’t pander or talk down to his audience. The Weekly Standard describes a May town hall meeting in Kenosha, WI:
Ryan’s opening remarks take 19 minutes. As if to confirm his well-deserved reputation as a budget wonk, his PowerPoint presentation – yes, a PowerPoint – includes a dizzying array of charts and graphs with debt-to-GDP ratios, revenue estimates, spending analyses, CBO projections, and a fair number of acronyms. …
Ryan’s presentation is compelling and easy to understand. He begins with a description of the coming debt crisis, briefly describes Barack Obama’s failure to address it, and then moves quickly to the five principles of his budget proposal. He’s given this talk hundreds of times before—to town halls, business groups, small gatherings of congressional Republicans. The practice shows. At one point, Ryan pauses for effect before he clicks to a slide depicting the “current path” projection over a graph tracing the history of U.S. debt. When he finally unveils the red Everest-like mountain of coming debt the audience responds with a collective gasp.
Ryan has also demonstrated the ability to go toe-to-toe with Obama administration officials – and Obama himself – without breaking a sweat – and he knows where the budgetary gimmicks and waste are buried. This analysis of the accounting tricks built into ObamaCare to create the illusion of cost-savings Ryan offered during a bi-partisan health-care summit in February 2010 best illustrates how formidable he will be in the vice presidential debate and on the campaign trail:
The majority leader said the bill scores as reducing the deficit $131 billion over the next 10 years. [W]hat has been placed in front of [the CBO to score] is a bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke-and-mirrors. …
It takes $52 billion in higher Social Security tax revenues and counts them as offsets. But that's really reserved for Social Security. So either we're double-counting them or we don't intend on paying those Social Security benefits.
It takes $72 billion and claims money from the CLASS Act. That's the long-term care insurance program. It takes the money from premiums that are designed for that benefit and instead counts them as offsets. …
[I]t treats Medicare like a piggy bank. It raids a half a trillion dollars out of Medicare, not to shore up Medicare solvency, but to spend on this new government program. …
You can't say that you're using this money to either extend Medicare solvency and also offset the cost of this new program. That's double counting.
And so when you take a look at all of this; when you strip out the double-counting and what I would call these gimmicks, the full 10-year cost of the bill has a $460 billion deficit. The second 10-year cost of this bill has a $1.4 trillion deficit.
Obama sat stone-faced throughout Ryan’s presentation, and quickly moved to the next speaker:
Even Democrat political consultants James Carville and Joe Trippi concede that the Romney-Ryan combo is a game-changer. Carville, who slams Ryan in his new book, “It’s the Middle Class, Stupid,” says that with Ryan as Romney’s running mate, “The race wouldn’t be about personalities, it’d be about big issues.” For his part, Trippi believes that, “If Mitt Romney actually campaigned on bold proposals to solve these big problems, he’d be a much tougher candidate.”