If selecting a vice president just means picking someone safe who won’t alter the tone or tenor of the 2012 race, then Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman are fine vice presidential selections for Mitt Romney. But if Romney decides to play against type, setting aside his instinct for total risk aversion, I’d recommend he consider the potential of Paul Ryan as his choice.
Here’s the basic case. The general sentiment of the Ryan boomlet is this: unlike Pawlenty or Portman, Ryan changes the conversation in this election. The left might find that favorable; they believe Ryan’s ideas are too politically toxic to win on them nationally. But there are a number of reasons I believe Ryan is a less risky choice than some might argue, and unlike those who believe Romney can win with his play-it-safe strategy, counting on the unemployment situation to vault him into the White House, I think Ryan changes the conversation in a way that would prove electorally helpful to Romney.
A Romney-Ryan ticket would refocus both campaigns on entitlements, fiscal policy, and issues of debt and deficit immediately – issues that Romney feels he can lead on, where Obama has not, and where Ryan is an expert in arguing in the public square. Ryan sends a message about the seriousness of the fiscal challenge we face, one that Portman and Pawlenty do not.