- - Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

TAMPA, Fla. — Ron Paul can justifiably take credit for deeply imprinting on the Republican Party agenda this year.

Though he was a pariah four years ago, his fierce defense of liberty, fiscal conservatism and containment of the federal government guided every campaign in the endless and tumbling Republican primary at least to some degree. Mitt Romney’s announcement this week that he supports auditing the Federal Reserve is but the latest example of Mr. Paul’s fingerprints.

But it is another Paul who deserves nearly as much credit for shaping the current Republican campaign in regards to both politics and policy. That would be Paul Ryan.

For years ensconced in boring House committee and subcommittee hearings, Mr. Ryan has toiled away in his nerdy, earnest manner running the numbers every conceivable way and arriving at very sobering conclusions about the future of voters’ most beloved entitlement programs.

His recommendations for fixing the dire problems, however, have been anything but boring. Republicans treated his ideas for salvaging from impending doom the Social Security and Medicare programs — and the federal government’s solvency — as though they were threats as deadly as the Ebola virus. That is because politicians simply hate monkeying with anything that might get them into trouble with voters.

Now, Mr. Romney and the Republicans certainly have not adopted Mr. Ryan’s original plans for saving the popular programs. But the mere fact that they are so openly talking about trying to salvage them passes as unflinching boldness in Washington.

And it goes beyond policy. By picking Mr. Ryan, Mr. Romney made a very political decision that his campaign for the presidency will be about offering serious solutions to gravely serious problems.

It will be the group of adults versus the once-hip youngsters cruising around on one final bender before graduating from college.

While Mr. Ryan’s long and steady campaign for serious governance in Washington has already paid enormous dividends for the Republicans, his speech Wednesday night marks the beginning of Mr. Ryan’s toughest challenge.

With his nerdy earnestness and wholesome demeanor beyond question, he must now pivot to a fighter’s stance and start laying down withering criticism of President Obama and the Democrats.

Without tarnishing his good-natured persona, he must now take up the political cudgel and lay waste to his opponents, who will do absolutely anything in their power to keep the system on its trajectory toward collapse.

He needs to get a little Chris Christie on them — without actually becoming Chris Christie.

Charles Hurt can be reached at charleshurt@live.com.