Mitt Romney announced his selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate yesterday. I watched the coverage after returning from an excellent training run in the humid drizzle at Green Springs.
Romney made the announcement in Norfolk, which drove him again how critical Virginia is to both candidates' prospects. It continues to amaze me how quickly Virginia became a swing state: when I first moved back here, I was convinced that my vote in a Presidential election would never matter because the state was so solidly Republican. Now, it's one of the 3 to 5 most important states, right up there with Florida, Ohio and Colorado.
Ryan is the first candidate in a Presidential election who is a member of my generation. He was born in 1970, which means he would have been a senior in high school when I was a freshman.
I periodically have done the thought experiment of who the national politicians/leaders in my generation would remind me of from my own childhood. Now I have the first actual example, but Ryan does not immediately bring anyone to mind.
He is clearly charismatic, and based on what I've read he is both book-smart and politics-smart. I noticed during his speech yesterday that he has an awkward smile: his mouth goes kind of up and then down. He also has a Midwestern-feel to his demeanor and speech, which might be why he does not remind me of any contemporaries.
A couple of commentators (Ruth Marcus and Noam Scheiber) have already written that Ryan is a bad pick because he only energizes the conservative base, rather than enabling Romney to capture moderates who are disillusioned with Obama.
I understand the Marcus/Scheiber argument, but I'm not sure it's correct.
I think Ryan's youth and charisma will be a good complement to Romney. I also think the fact that he has articulated detailed fiscal plans/policies will be appealing to people; voters may be less interested in the actual (conservative) fine points and more relieved that there's a politician actually willing to go on-the-record with specific proposals.
Will Saletan made this point yesterday (here), and he emphasized that Ryan's specific details highlight the shortcomings of both parties' platforms:
Ryan refutes the Democratic Party’s bogus arguments. He knows that our domestic spending trajectory is unsustainable and that liberals who fail to get it under control are leading their constituents over a cliff, just like in Europe. Eventually, you can’t borrow enough money to make good on your promises, and everyone’s screwed.
Ryan refutes the GOP’s bogus arguments, too. He proves that a genuine conservative, as opposed to a Tea-Party ideologue, votes for bailouts when economic sanity requires them. Ryan also shows that a real conservative doesn’t worship any part of the budget, including defense. His expenditure caps can’t be squared with Romney’s nutty pledge to keep military spending above four percent of GDP. And Ryan destroys Romney’s ability to continue making the dishonest, anti-conservative argument that Obamacare is evil because it cuts Medicare. Now Romney will have to defend the honest conservative argument, which is that Medicare spending should be controlled.