Sunday, August 12, 2012

Paul Ryan, Romney’s earnest opposite

Walter Shapiro's Yahoo! News column examines what we know about the character and personalities of the 2012 candidates. Shapiro, who is covering his ninth presidential campaign, is also a special correspondent for the New Republic.
In 1996, bedeviled by conservative doubts about his tax-cutting credentials, Bob Dole named Jack Kemp -- the fervent champion of free-market economics – as his running mate. Sixteen years later, confronting lingering right-wing skepticism about his conservative pedigree, Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan – a former Kemp speechwriter – as his vice-presidential nominee.

Romney played against type in his surprise selection of the youthful seven-term Wisconsin congressman, who was considered a long-shot until the last few days. Rather than choosing a make-no-waves running mate like Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Romney opted for a free-market ideologue over a political man for all seasons.

The veep choice is probably the best pre-election preview of how Romney would govern from the Oval Office. By going with Ryan -- whose well-publicized budget proposals put both traditional Medicare and Social Security in the cross-hairs – Romney is signaling that he can change direction with stunning speed. Instead of a predictable recite-America-the-Beautiful campaign designed to make Barack Obama the issue, Romney has added policy heft and controversy to his I-can-create-jobs bromides.

Introducing Ryan in Norfolk on Saturday morning, Romney called him “the next president of the United States.” (Obama made an analogous slip-up in 2008.) While it would take a Freudian to unpack what Romney meant subconsciously, it is safe to say that Ryan would provide the domestic agenda for Romney as the next president of the United States. 

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