The choice is in—Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has chosen Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his second-in-command as of late last night. Is this the right move? I like Ryan, and certainly don’t think it’s a bad pick, but I wonder if it’s really the best option Romney had at his disposal.
Ryan has built a national name for himself as the voice for Republican economic policies from his chairmanship of the House Budget Committee. His proposals, particularly with regards to Medicare, are innovative and in an ideal world they would be seen as a way to forge a new path to social justice, by taking the foundation of Democratic programs from FDR through LBJ and allowing them to progress into the 21st century through appropriate use of vouchers and market forces.
Of course the world we live in is less than ideal and instead of being seen as the middle-ground consensus policies they really are, the political Left, which thrives on group-think and a lack of independent thought, has chosen to characterize Ryan’s proposals as a “let them eat cake”. It’s false, but it’s a falsehood that will be difficult to overcome between now and November.
That, in of itself, is not the biggest problem though. Ryan’s an articulate spokesman and it’s also possible that a chance to present himself on a national stage—especially in the coming debate with Vice-President Joe Biden might turn public opinion in his favor. The real problem is the political impact of Romney’s choice.
Ryan may come from Wisconsin, a key battleground state, but as a House member he’s never won a statewide race, so it’s up in the air as to whether he can help Romney overcome a persistent Obama lead here. And even if he can, Wisconsin is not Florida when it comes to electoral prospects. Florida senator Marco Rubio has won a statewide race in a more important locale and has the residual appeal of offering something to the Hispanic community, whose votes will be so important in this election.
So congratulations to Paul Ryan on his selection and on balance I do think he helps the ticket. But Rubio would have helped more.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com