WASHINGTON, D.C., August 15, 2012 — What a difference a vice-presidential nominee makes. Forget all the talk about a lack of enthusiasm for Governor Romney. Republicans are now, dare I say it, fired up and ready to go.
On Saturday, August 10, in Norfolk, Virginia Governor Mitt Romney announced Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate. Within hours, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul announced on twitter that the Romney campaign had raised over $2 million.
As Romney made the announcement, he exuded an aura of assurance. For a moment, he wasn’t stiff and awkward. He had a confident swagger.
A native of Janesville, Wisconsin, Ryan, age 42, was elected to the House of Representatives at 28 years of age (1988). In 2011, he became the Chairman of the House Budget Committee.
While his conservative bonafides are not in question, he has voted in favor of legislation that put him at odds with many in his party. For example, he voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program as well the Auto Bailout. He also voted to raise debt ceiling last year much to the chagrin of many Republicans in his own caucus.
Nevertheless, he has developed a reputation as a budget hawk and a strong advocate for entitlement reform. He is the author of the House Republican budget that, among other things, transforms Medicare into a premium support program for those under the age of 55.
The addition of Ryan to the Romney ticket not only energizes the conservative base but it could also elevate the level of public discourse in the campaign. It puts issues of entitlement reform, and fiscal responsibility at the forefront. That, however, comes with potential risks.
The race that Republicans hope to make a referendum on President Obama’s economic leadership could turn into a referendum on the Ryan budget. At every turn, Romney will have to address the Ryan budget. He can not completely distance himself from the Ryan budget, because that will alienate the right. He can not fully champion it either because it is unpopular.
So, Romney will be forced into an undesirable middle ground where he may come across as being wishy-washy. It will make him look like a follower, not a leader. It will make it seem like Ryan is the one in charge and calling the shots. After all, it is his budget proposal that people are now talking about, not Romney’ economic plan.
Lastly, Ryan’s lack of foreign policy experience is a major weakness. Just like Romney, Paul Ryan also has to pass the Commander-in-Chief threshold. With the unrest in Syria, and the rising tension between Iran and Israel, he has to show that he can be a credible Commander-in-Chief if need be.
While the economy is currently the number one issue of the campaign, a major international crisis could change the dynamic of the race. Romney and Ryan will have to prove that they have credibility on foreign policy.
It is too early to determine Paul Ryan’s impact on the race. Only time will tell. But for now, it suffices to say that he is a risky choice. Maybe even an unnecessary risk.
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