The reaction to the Romney campaign’s announcement of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as the GOP’s vice-presidential running mate has already validated the choice. Republicans had been suffering from lingering nervousness about Mitt Romney’s persistent nice-guy image and a field operation that was sluggish warming up to full-attack mode. Mr. Ryan’s reputation of political fearlessness puts that to rest, and Democrats are reeling.
After the Ryan pick was announced, donkeys immediately reverted to tired, old anti-Ryan talking points. California Rep. Nancy Pelosi proclaimed via Twitter, “Paul Ryan’s budget ends the Medicare guarantee and shift [sic] costs to seniors simply to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid resorted to scaring the elderly and implying Mr. Ryan is an extremist, claiming, “By picking Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Romney has doubled down on his commitment to gut Social Security and end Medicare as we know it. Romney’s choice demonstrates that catering to the Tea Party and the far-right is more important to him that [sic] standing up for the middle class.”
Tellingly, the normally loquacious President Obama ignored questions from the press about Mr. Romney’s selection. His spokesman Jim Messina called Mr. Ryan “the architect of the radical Republican House budget” whose plan “would end Medicare as we know it.”
Republicans are heartened. The acrimony and intra-party squabbling that characterized the primary races are gone as elephants shift to the task at hand: defeating Mr. Obama in November. Mr. Ryan is no wallflower in the political dance. A seven-term Republican congressman from a habitually blue state, he has experience tangling with the Chicago-style dirty politics that characterize the current administration. This spring, Mr. Obama called the House Republican budget, authored by Mr. Ryan, a “Trojan Horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country,” “thinly veiled social Darwinism” and “a prescription for decline.” Undaunted, Mr. Ryan fired back at Mr. Obama’s mischaracterizations, saying, “Exploiting people’s emotions of fear, envy and anxiety is not hope, it’s not change, it’s partisanship.”
Republicans recognize in Mr. Ryan someone who is serious about changing the direction of the country. “Paul Ryan is an excellent choice,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Washington Times. “Gov. Romney and Paul Ryan will bring much-needed presidential leadership to Washington, D.C., leadership that can help bring real recovery to our economy. They will take a serious approach to the Obama debt and focus on growing jobs rather than the size of government.” Speaker John Boehner told Mr. Ryan in a call this morning, “I’m happy for you. Be yourself,” and congratulated Mr. Romney on making a great pick. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was ebullient, telling The Washington Times, “It’s a fantastic day for Gov. Romney and America. This is a solutions team vs. the blame team and that’s what America’s going to see.”
Mr. Obama is on his way to Chicago to attend four fundraisers this weekend. Tickets for two of the events cost $40,000 per person. With Obama-Biden now facing a formidable Romney-Ryan ticket, the president is going to need every penny.
Anneke E. Green is Assistant Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Times.