By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
Mitt Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan to be his VP is a brilliant one if - and it’s a big if - he let’s Ryan be Ryan. If he tries to Palinize his VP choice like John McCain did in 2008, fuhgeddabout it. In that case, he might have done himself more harm than good.
The enthusiastic, Palin-esque reception Ryan has received everywhere he’s gone over the weekend is great for Romney. This is the very first time his campaign has generated any Tea Party energy at all, and Mitt needs to harness that energy and feed it. If he does, electoral victory is guaranteed on Nov. 6.
Ryan is generating the same kind of enthusiasm in the base that Chick-fil-A did. Romney blew a golden opportunity by pretending CFA does not exist, saying it’s “not a part of my campaign.” Here’s hoping he doesn’t make exactly the same mistake with Ryan.
It’s striking that for the second time in a row, the GOP has a ticket where the Number 2 is far more popular with the party’s base than the Number 1. Romney is going to have the same challenge McCain had in 2008: His Number 2 is likely to outdraw him substantially on the campaign trail and generate far more enthusiasm. They may wind up campaigning together, as McCain and Palin did, because not doing so might make the guy at the top of the ticket look bad.
Conservatives, by the way, are salivating at the prospect of a Ryan-Biden VP debate. It will be Custer at the Little Big Horn for Mr. Three Letter Word, “J-O-B-S.” They will have to invoke the LIttle League Mercy Rule in the first half hour of that thing. There are already calls for the Roman Catholic church to suspend its rules and make a priest available to Mr. Biden to administer last rites.
But conservatives have reason to be concerned that Romney will Palinize Ryan. In Florida, Romney had difficulty distinguishing his own budget from the Ryan reform plan yesterday, largely because Romney doesn’t even have a budget plan of his own. He just doesn’t want to get tied to Ryan’s plan, solely because of risk-averse fear. He’s going to try to wait until he sees which way the windsock is blowing.
Byron York observed in the Washington Examiner that in Ryan’s first solo voyage on the campaign seas yesterday, he said nary a word about either entitlement reform or Medicare, apparently under orders from headquarters. Yet is the very boldness of Ryan’s plan that has lit a fire under the base. Romney is apparently already sending the ruling class Republican firefighters out to extinguish the Ryan blaze before it spreads.
York observes that if Romney, who has already muzzled himself on RomneyCare, puts a cork in Ryan regarding the Roadmap, “we might see a campaign in which both Republican candidates seek to downplay their signature achievements.”
The problem for Romney is quite simply that this campaign is already about Ryan more than it is about him. Ryan and Ryan’s plan are all anyone both left and right is talking about. Obama and the Democrats aren’t even campaigning against Romney anymore. It’s all Ryan, all the time. Romney has become an afterthought in his own campaign.
Now both ruling class Republicans and the entire Democratic establishment are terrified by the Ryan plan, ruling class Republicans because they are clueless and Democrats because they know it represents a lethal threat to their electoral chances.
Scaredy-cat Republican elites are sweating, wringing their hands and in general shaking like a leaf on a tree because they are frightened that GOP congressional candidates may have to declare themselves on the Ryan budget. I weep not for them. This is a defining moment for the Republican Party: either go big or go home. The country can’t wait any longer for solutions, and the Republican base knows it.
The Ryan plan to save both Social Security and Medicare is an easy sell in Florida if the Romney team is smart. The pitch, which has the advantage of being entirely true, is that nothing, absolutely nothing, will change for Florida’s seniors with regard to either program. No one other than Barack Obama is taking away their Social Security or Medicare benefits. The Ryan plan doesn’t touch anyone over the age of 55.
So, the Ryan-Romney team must say to seniors, “This is not about you. Our plan changes nothing for you. Social Security and Medicare as you know it won’t change. This is about your kids and your grandkids. If we don’t reform these programs, there will be nothing there for them when they reach your age. What will end Medicare as we know it is Medicare as we know it. We know you don’t want that. You love your children and grandchildren too much not to support decisions right now that will save these programs for them when they need it.”
This is an easy sell, and it will work precisely because Florida’s seniors do in fact love their children and grandchildren.
The Ryan Roadmap is a winner if only Romney will get on board and not just “applaud” it but “embrace” it. Ryan has painted with the “bold colors” Reagan spoke of, which is why it is enormously popular with the base.
Ryan will be a good and loyal team player. If Romney orders himself to distance himself from his own country-saving plan, Ryan will do it. But it will cost the GOP the election.
Bottom line: Romney’s problem is that the other guy ought to be at the top of the ticket.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)