- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mitt Romney will be the GOP presidential candidate. Former Sen. Rick Santorum has suspended his campaign, clearing the path for Mr. Romney’s inevitable victory at the convention. The ex-Massachusetts governor now faces a pivotal question: Who will be his vice-presidential running mate?

There are numerous possible choices - almost all of them bad. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is boring. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez lacks a national profile. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour left office plagued by a pardon scandal. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is bright, articulate and a Tea Party favorite. Yet, he does not want the job and has said so publicly and repeatedly.

This leaves only three realistic options: Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell is a staunch fiscal and social conservative. He can also help galvanize evangelical Christians, a key voting bloc Mr. Romney needs in November. Virginia is a key toss-up state. Mr. McDonnell could enable Team Romney to put it in the Republican column. He is competent, talented and principled. He would be a solid choice. But Mr. McDonnell lacks one compelling trait: star power. Mr. Romney so far is failing to catch fire with voters. Mr. Romney is brainy, tenacious and an experienced businessman. The one quality he lacks, however, is charisma. Mr. McDonnell does nothing for him on that crucial front.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has massive charm. His blunt, straight talk and ability to connect with working-class voters has catapulted him to national prominence. He has also rolled back public health care and pension benefits, as well as faced down New Jersey’s powerful labor unions. He has slashed spending and cut taxes. He has shown fiscal responsibility can work even in a deep blue state. Yet, Mr. Christie has one serious drawback: He is not a conservative. Rather, he is a pragmatic moderate, who is socially liberal and wedded to the GOP establishment. This may be the only kind of Republicanism that can win in the Northeast. For Mr. Romney, however, picking Mr. Christie would be the kiss of death. It would permanently alienate conservatives, many of whom remain skeptical about the GOP standard-bearer’s ideological convictions.

There is one man who can help Mr. Romney win in November: Rep. Paul Ryan. The Wisconsin Republican has emerged as a potent political force. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Mr. Ryan has become the de facto leader of the anti-Obama opposition. His budget plans have been routinely vilified by President Obama. Mr. Ryan is a principled fiscal hawk. He is a policy wonk who possesses an excellent grasp of budgetary issues. He is highly intelligent, articulate and telegenic. Wisconsin is a pivotal swing state. It is not blue or red, but purple - a real toss-up. Mr. Ryan is well known and respected across the Badger State. He could tip it into Republican hands, delivering a major blow to Mr. Obama’s re-election chances. In short, Mr. Ryan would bring policy gravitas, a high-profile personality and geographic clout to the Romney campaign.

A Romney-Ryan ticket would be almost invincible. It would exude the very opposite of Mr. Obama’s presidency - competence, maturity and sound economic fundamentals. The central issue of the election is the weak recovery and anemic economy. Mr. Ryan has become the symbol of fiscal prudence and budget-cutting. He understands the reality of our time: America is on the verge of becoming Greece; an Obama second term will lead to national bankruptcy. No one can make that urgent case more persuasively than Mr. Ryan.

Under Mr. Obama, the national debt is approaching $16 trillion. He has created the most indebted country in history. He has racked up three annual deficits each more than $1.2 trillion. This year the budget deficit is projected to exceed $1.3 trillion. In total, he has accumulated about $5 trillion in debt. These spending and deficit levels are unsustainable. Instead of curbing government expenditures, Mr. Obama plans to add another $10 trillion to the debt over the next decade. This is a guaranteed path to economic collapse.

The Ryan budget provides a coherent, realistic alternative. He proposes to repeal Obamacare, reduce spending, cut the deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade, reform the tax code and revamp the bloated welfare state. His goal is to unleash market-driven growth and modernize entitlements. Mr. Ryan calls for Medicaid to be transformed into a federal block grant (similar to welfare reform), enabling the states to have the flexibility and opportunity to efficiently allocate assistance to the poor. He also wants to bring choice and competition to Medicare through “premium supports” - lucrative government subsidies that would enable seniors to pick from a menu of insurance options. For this, Mr. Obama has labeled him a “Social Darwinist” - one who wants to return America to the Gilded Age.

This is shameless propaganda. Mr. Ryan is not a jungle capitalist, seeking to throw the poor onto the streets. Instead, he is a devout Catholic, who believes in subsidiarity, localism and a basic safety net. Social programs, however, should not be a license to squander taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

Republicans have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to present a governing vision that stands in stark contrast to Mr. Obama’s reactionary socialism - one based on economic revival, smaller government, balanced budgets and averting a debt crisis that threatens our very existence.

The Ryan plan is a hammer that will smash Obamaism. Mr. Romney has rightly embraced it. And there is no better way to prove his commitment than to choose Mr. Ryan as his running mate. A Romney-Ryan ticket is the Democrats’ worst nightmare, and it is our best shot at restoring the American dream.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.

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