The Freedom Fighter’s Journal
The odd thing about Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate is that the news was received with elation by both sides, by both Republicans and Democrats, by both the right and the left.
Both sides see the potential upside for themselves. The right sees a vice-presidential candidate who compensates for the deficiencies of their presidential candidate, providing more energy, more regular-guy charisma, and most of all a clear and compelling vision. The left sees a candidate who has taken a strong stance in favor of a proposal they are comfortable attacking. Ryan offers them relief from having to run on a weak economy and allows them instead to run against an agenda they think is deeply unpopular.
So everybody’s happy. But as John Dickerson points out
, both sides can’t be right. No matter what side you’re on, if you don’t feel a pit in the bottom of your stomach right now, you’ve lost the thread.
This is a high-risk, high-reward proposition for both sides. But the risks and rewards are not evenly distributed. The risks are much greater if you’re on the left, and the rewards are much greater if you’re on the right.
For those on the right, the downside is bad—but not as bad as you might think. While a Romney-Ryan loss may be pinned by some on Ryan’s radicalism, it is far more likely to be pinned on Romney—on his campaign’s failure to respond early enough to a ruthless negative campaign, or his awkwardness in explaining parts of his past record, or the general perception that he lacks conviction on the big issues of the day. Like Sarah Palin, Ryan is likely to be remembered as the part of the ticket people were most enthusiastic about—and unlike Palin, if Ryan goes down, it won’t be due to his own failings. He does not have a messy family life, and he has demonstrated that he is well-informed, well-prepared, and able to handle himself ably in press interviews. So if he does not become vice-president, I suspect Paul Ryan will be first in line for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
And he’ll be watching and waiting, because he knows that the economic and fiscal issues that define his agenda are not going away. In fact, he will expect that under Obama they are all going to get worse. Federal entitlement spending isn’t going to be controlled; it’s going to grow even faster once Obamacare comes fully into effect. A Democrat-controlled Senate that has gone three years without producing a budget will go four, five, six, seven years without a budget. If the economy hasn’t responded by now to fiscal and monetary stimulus, it probably won’t do so next year, either. After all, there are many European countries where Obama-like policies have kept growth permanently down at our current, anemic level of 1% to 2% per year and unemployment in double digits. So Ryan and the Republicans will be ready to say, “I told you so.”