Picking Paul Ryan for Vice President would show that the Republican Party is serious about the budget, including entitlement reform, but it would seriously complicate the message for this election. Politico is reporting that Ryan chatter is rising, but we see a lot of chatter in the weeks (and now it appears 10 days) leading up to the VP choice. Here are my thoughts:
Ryan is the right choice, but at the wrong time.
I believe Ryan is a great choice for President, but not Vice President here. Ultimately, when Ryan runs, it will become a referendum on entitlement reform and getting serious about the debt crisis. Can Romney-Ryan 2012 really explain his budget and the urgency of reform in two and a half months? How can they make the budget case in such a limited time frame?
As one Republican staffer told me, “There’s members of the Republican caucus that still don’t understand the Ryan budget. They support it, and trust him, but it’s a very complex budget with a lot of long-term planning. I doubt they can properly define it to voters before November 6th.” I think that’s the greatest challenge.
Do voters view the budget and the economy as related?
Obviously they are, and the massive federal debt is the largest specter looming over our economic growth. Still, can Romney-Ryan make the case that fixing the budget issue will create jobs? Can they do this, especially, in the face of millions of dollars in liberal advertising talking about how the budget will cut investments in education, Medicare, government services and more? There is a case to be made, but Democrats will attempt to seperate the two, and accuse Mitt of dropping his focus on the economy.
Is Ryan ready to make the national case?
Ryan’s star is surely rising in Washington, and he has become increasingly comfortable with defending his budget and his fiscal worldview on the national stage. Vice President (or a presidential campaign) is a whole new ballgame. We’ll be talking about constant media chatter, attacks in all directions and a huge emphasis on what Ryan brings to the ticket. Unless Romney is confident in Ryan’s ability to be his own messenger (and unless Mitt is as well versed in his VP’s economic views as the VP himself is) is it worth the gamble?
All in all, I would be highly supportive of a Romney-Ryan pick and what it would say about the GOP’s desire to fix the budget catastrophe. I worry, however, that the limited time frame in which to make the case may cause frightened voters to turn away from the ticket. Perhaps Romney-Ryan would surprise me, but I think it would take a full-fledged presidential campaign from Ryan in 4-8 years to adequately explain his plan. Count me in as a supporter when that day comes.