With his early-morning announcement of his choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney woke up his campaign with a caffeinated jolt of right-wing substance. The Romney campaign now has instant credibility with Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Kristol.
Romney has long had his arms wrapped around the Ryan budget. Now he’s wrapped his arms around Ryan himself, augmenting his vague 59-point plan for his running mate's plan, which doubles down on trickle-down economics and vouchers instead of guaranteed benefits.
Ryan, a likeable, lean and energetic member of the House from Janesville, Wisconsin, would give big tax cuts to the 1 percent, not-so-big ones to those in the middle, and possibly raise taxes on the working class. He doesn’t name which deductions he will end or which loopholes he will close. But do not expect that his specifics, if they come, will shut down tax havens in the Cayman Islands.
As for cuts, there are massive ones to the social-safety net, slightly obscured by having the states do the cutting. Ryan’s budget is the defining document for conservatives, Tea Partiers, the freshmen in the House of Representatives, the Club for Growth and tax pledge author Grover Norquist, who famously said earlier this year that if the brilliant Ryan were chosen for the No. 2 spot, conservatives would need a president only “with enough working digits to hold a pen” to sign his budget.
Since the V.P. choice no longer guarantees the presidential nominee a state or is designed to balance a ticket, Romney's selection has to work as a buddy movie. It will run for two months and involve a large bus with constitutional script on the side, smiling spouses and a child or two on board.
The opening credits were good. Against the backdrop of the USS Wisconsin, Romney emphasized Ryan’s tough upbringing (his father died when he was young), his Catholicism and his ardent desire to repeal Obamacare. Ryan appeared tieless, looking young and raring to go. With all that moussed hair and good teeth, it was hard to tell where Romney's family ended and Ryan’s began.
If you are going to serve up spinach, best to have it dished up by a guy like Ryan. With his pick, Romney is gambling that voters want a debate between two very different governing visions: Barack Obama's and Paul Ryan's.
(Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)
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