Mitt Romney had a reputation as the head of Bain Capital for seeking to reduce the private equity firm’s risk and maximizing its reward. But the presumptive Republican presidential nominee took a daring gamble on Saturday by naming House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Indeed, when the former Massachusetts governor accidentally introduced Ryan as the “next president of the United States” he was almost encouraging Republican dreams of the presidential elections to come with the Wisconsin congressman atop the ticket.
“Paul Ryan is a bold, outstanding pick,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. “He’s a true leader with a great family who has shown with courage and commitment that he understands the depth of our country’s fiscal problems and what it’s going to take to address them.”
But that same virtue praised by Corker gives Ryan some heavy baggage. It’s the consequence of taking strong ideological stands, rather than simply playing the traditional role of bad cop and attacking the current administration’s policies as the campaign moves forward. It could make the family drama and the Alaskan rivalries that catapulted Sarah Palin into tabloid fodder when Arizona Sen. John McCain picked her as a running mate in 2008 seem like the warm-up act to another VP controversy for the GOP.
The campaign could now evolve into a war of ideas—rather than a referendum on the economy—that Democrats are eager to fight.
As the architect of the past two Republican budget proposals, Ryan has been responsible for translating conservative principles into tough financial choices as it has become clear that the $1 trillion-plus levels of deficit spending are unsustainable, let alone the unfunded commitments of Medicare and Social Security.
His budget plans adhere to the belief in shrinking the federal government. Tax rates would be slashed to two brackets of 10 percent and 25 percent, while Medicare would become a voucher-type program that would provide subsidies for private insurance plans.
Democrats have made no secret of their intention to highlight these changes with older voters who are aghast at the prospect of the social contract in government entitlement programs getting re-written. And that could cost the Romney ticket dearly in Florida, a key swing state.
Shortly after the formal announcement of Ryan’s selection, the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities posted a blistering critique that stems from months of analyses. A chorus of Democrats latched onto the Medicare changes as a weakness, with Obama campaign manager Jim Messina saying they would shift thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors.
"Romney will have picked one of the only people who could have had an impact in the race. But, not the way he wants,” tweeted Bill Burton, a former White House staffer who co-founded the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action.
However, Ryan should help firm up the Republican base for Romney. Gallup released a poll two weeks ago showing that Republicans considered reducing the deficit to be slightly more important than job creation.