THE choice of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate is a clear sign that, for Mitt Romney, no issue in this presidential election campaign is more important then our exploding debt and its effect on the economy. Who better to help drive home that point than Ryan, an articulate budget expert with a personality?
Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he has written budget plans that have caused Democrats' hair to stand on end because they include cost-saving changes to such budget-busting and unsustainable entitlement programs as Medicare. Release of Ryan's House GOP budget last year was followed by a TV ad that depicted him pushing a senior citizen over a cliff.
Expect more of the same from Democrats for the next three months. Within hours of Romney's announcement Saturday, President Barack Obama's campaign released an ad calling Ryan, R-Wis., the “mastermind behind the extreme GOP budget plan.”
If extreme means serious, then yes, Ryan is guilty as charged. Democrats, on the other hand, have been anything but serious about the budget during Obama's first term — indeed for three years, the Democrat-controlled Senate has skirted its constitutional mandate and not even submitted a budget for consideration.
One part of Ryan's budget plan would allow seniors to use their government premium support to buy either private insurance or traditional Medicare coverage. Even that is a bridge too far for most Democrats in Congress. They prefer the status quo, which has Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid eating up nearly half of the federal budget. That percentage will only grow in future years unless changes are made.
Ryan is a budget hawk, but also is seen as an advocate for pro-growth policies — his budgets would reduce the drag government creates on economic growth. And, his budgets would increase federal spending, just not at the unsustainable rates promoted by Democrats.
Ryan may not have been the first choice for some in the GOP. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is a rising star and would have offered help attracting Hispanics in a vitally important swing state. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, an Indian-American, is a dynamic education reformer. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman were among others thought to be on Romney's shortlist, and with good reason.
The choice of Ryan, 42, should be well received in Oklahoma. He's a conservative through and through, he's an outdoorsman and he had the good sense to marry an Oklahoma girl — Madill native Janna Little.
Most importantly, though, Ryan gives the Republican ticket a budget expert who can clearly spell out the differences between Romney's idea of how the government should spend taxpayer money, and how Obama prefers to spend it. It's a message Romney and Ryan must drive home repeatedly, and immediately, in the view of Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan.
Interviewed Monday on Fox & Friends, Noonan said the Romney-Ryan ticket needs to “come forward in the next 10 days ... make a first impression, make it on issues, and say, ‘I'm not trying to hurt these programs, I'm trying to save them. I'm not the shark, I'm the lifeguard.'”
Ryan is a serious running mate at a profoundly serious time for our country. Romney urged Obama on Sunday to “take your campaign out of the gutter. Let's talk about the real issues America faces.” We don't expect that to happen. But if it does, Paul Ryan provides Romney with just the person to help lead those conversations.