I had the opportunity this past Saturday morning to see Mitt Romney announce Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his choice for vice president in Norfolk, Va. As I watched Ryan come down the stairs of the U.S.S. Wisconsin, I had the feeling that the Republican presidential campaign had undergone a major change in personality.
This feeling was confirmed later as I saw Ryan speak at a rally in North Carolina and looked and acted much more presidential than the person that chose him for the ticket. Romney appeared to say as much when he first introduced Ryan in front of the Battleship Wisconsin and mistakenly referred to his choice as the next president of the United States.
When Ryan spoke in Virginia and later in North Carolina he was much more articulate in describing Romney’s qualities and more precise in delineating the issues at hand. The difference between the two became even more obvious as Romney stood next to Ryan and looked more like a sidekick than the party’s candidate for president.
It is clear that the vice president candidate is currently stealing the show. This also goes for the Ryan budget as it also comes front and center to the campaign platform. In other words, in selecting Ryan, Romney also has to swallow the controversial budget that the congressman has laid out in Congress.
Ryan’s budget plan is a curious specimen because it is a product of a divided Congress with no chance of negotiation and compromise to achieve the consensus necessary for passage without a Republican majority. It proposes to balance the budget in 30 years by revising the tax code and lowering tax rates especially for corporations who would enjoy a rate reduction from 35 percent to 25 percent.
The core of the changes that would lead to a balance budget are deep cuts in entitlements including turning Medicare into a voucher program and putting Social Security on a path toward privatization. The promised cuts in safety net programs creates the most difficulty for the Republican presidential campaign as the elderly that count for so much in swing states like Florida and Ohio can be scared away.
Yet with Ryan on the ticket, the country has a real choice of competing visions about how to solve the nation’s economic problems. Ryan personifies one side of the equation that speaks eloquently about supply side economics and preaches the notion that the more money we allow in the hands of the wealthy, the more jobs they will create.
That is the plan that the Romney campaign must sell to the American people. Although there are words in the wind that indicate that Romney may want to go away from Ryan’s budget plan, this would diminish the choice of a running-mate he has so carefully made.
Given the force of personalities that have been manifested in joint appearances so far, Romney appears to be playing second fiddle to a Ryan that proposes hard choices for the 99 percent that hold the country together. This changes the campaign and revitalizes the conservative base going into the Republican convention.
Romney’s choosing Ryan is a bold move as was the selection of Sarah Palin in 2008. The difference is that in Ryan we have a Washington insider with definite ideas about how to solve the country’s economic problems.
In Ryan we also have a dynamic personality that can take the campaign far. He may even be able to pull Romney along for the ride.