This past week, my colleagues Matthew Miller and Dave Gaultier respectively made compelling cases for Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio as the next Vice Presidential nominee of the United States. Few subjects in politics interest me more than Veep discussion, so I decided to follow their lead and stump for my preferred running mate for Gov. Romney: the esteemed Congressman from the Badger State and visionary House Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan.
I’ll begin by addressing the commonly cited downsides of Ryan-as-VP. First, some, such as Mr. Miller himself, have argued that putting Ryan on the bottom of the ticket would divert attention away from the top and essentially make the election a referendum on the Path to Prosperity (and if I have misrepresented Matthew’s position, I’ll stand corrected). I used to agree with this. However, in recent times, it has become obvious that Mitt’s healthcare – and, by extension, deficit – proposals largely mirror Ryan’s. Therefore, when considering the harsh scrutiny Republican presidential nominees receive during general election campaigns no matter what, I submit to you that having Ryan on the ticket wouldn’t make much of a difference. And in fact, if Mitt seeks to turn this election into a choice between two noticeably different visions for America’s future – a possibility I will examine later, his campaign may actually welcome the added attention, as it would reinforce the notion that they endeavor to offer the American public serious solutions to serious problems.
Along these lines, many have fretted the possibility that Romney’s running mate could eventually overshadow him, a la Sarah Palin and John McCain. However, when we consider the other “dream” running mates Republicans have most often cited for the Governor – Rubio, Jindal, Chris Christie, and Ryan – it becomes rather clear that the Chairman appears far less likely than the others to outshine Mitt in personality, charisma, or background. Ryan obviously brings extraordinary strengths to the table, but he doesn’t provide Christie’s edge-of-your-seat excitement, Rubio’s inspiring oratory, or Jindal’s jaw-dropping record of achievement and competence. This may provide more of a good match than a conflict with Romney’s seemingly risk-averse nature.
I’ve made it no secret that I harbor a fondness for the Cheney/Biden VP model – of a Washington insider (excuse the dirty word) with an intimate knowledge of political and legislative dynamics and the ability to spearhead the president’s agenda through Congress. More so than the other oft-mentioned top choices, Ryan fits this profile. While he has taken great pains to preserve his reluctant citizen-politician image, the fact remains that Ryan keeps an ear firmly to the ground when it comes to political sentiment. Consequently, he could serve as a key policy adviser to a President Romney and help him shape his agenda to best adapt to political realities. He could also utilize his sterling reputation and extensive connections in Washington to win over key support on crucial legislation. The president (thankfully) only has so much unilateral power, so all the executive experience in the world will not amount to enough for Romney if he can’t get Congress to work with him.
Above all, Romney should tap Ryan if he seeks to make this election the aforementioned choice between two competing visions for America’s future – between the government-driven corporatism Obama offers and the private sector-driven opportunity society that Romney professes to desire. More than any alternative, Paul Ryan would help center the focus of the fall campaign on the most important issue facing the country: our debt and deficit.
I suppose we can look at it this way: if Mitt cares most about political considerations, he should go with Sen. Rubio. If he cares most about executive competence and nuts-and-bolts governing, he should opt for Gov. Jindal. But if he cares most about addressing the biggest of the big issues of the day, he should select Chmn. Ryan.