I didn't think it could happen.
Paul Ryan is principled, sharp as they come, well-spoken, telegenic, youthful, and married to an Oklahoma girl. What more could you ask?
This is a bold and excellent move by Mitt Romney. President Obama's re-election team, however, will now elevate the hate they spew toward anyone who dares oppose them. It's hard to imagine that their smear machine could get any worse--but it will. Their effort to dump on Ryan will start with a repeat of the "he'll dump Granny over the cliff" approach, as always taking things too far and painting their political rivals as wicked evildoers. They're already carpet-bombing "opposition research" everywhere, trying to sully Ryan's clean (and deserved) image.Obama has already gone out of his way trying to make Ryan into a villain.
Ryan will also remember the occasion when Obama invited him to be front-row for a supposed major budget proposal, then used him as a foil and prop for TV while Paul could only sit and fume. That stoked his inner fire and will be a constant motivation that maintains his passion on the campaign trail.
Nevertheless, Ryan can take it, not only holding his own but also refuting the attacks. The Romney campaign will be wise to put Ryan out front constantly. His youth combats Obama's, and all the more effectively because Ryan is a genuine reformer, not a radical masquerading as a reformer.
A big key had to be the willingness of Paul's wife, Janna, to accept this bid while raising their handful of small children. To me, this always seemed the biggest barrier to having him on the short list because Paul truly is a devoted father. Janna, however, is as smart and capable as she is lovely. The second barrier to Ryan's selection was the allure of chasing after Ohio via the "safe" pick of Sen. Rob Portman. It is nice to see Romney going bold rather than safe.
Some will equate this with picking Sarah Palin as an example of boldness, appealing to the base, telegenics, etc. But Ryan brings a greater level of depth, knowledge, and even political craftiness than Palin. As budget chairman he has been exposed to plenty of tricks and games and knows how to deal with them. He has shrewdness in abundance; he can spot traps and not only evade them but turn them around on the source.
Ryan's introductory speech was spot-on in both tone and content. Especially his re-affirmation of the fundamental principles that Obama seems determined to push aside.
Back to Ohio for a second, this choice has got to excite Gov. John Kasich. As one who formerly had Ryan's budget chair seat, he can appreciate how Ryan has used it as a fulcrum for boldness just as Kasich did (even though Ryan obviously had to make compromises required by the other GOP members, as did Kasich). The compromises made within Ryan's budget proposals must be understood in this light. Ryan's heart is definitely in the right place.
Not only is Wisconsin brought into play by this, but it strengthens the effort in the entire Rust Belt and Midwest. Unlike a choice from a redder state, Ryan throughout his career has had to deal with the panoply of job loss, outsourcing, manufacturing and related issues at are so all-important in that region. The success of Gov. Scott Walker in defeating the left's furious effort to remove him is a big factor in believing that Wisconsin might go red with home-stater Ryan on the ticket.
Finally, as a reliable social conservative, Ryan obviously shores up that base, especially since Obama's pushes on mandatory contraception and same-sex marriage have alienated so many of Ryan's fellow Catholics. But what is a true difference-maker is that Paul is an ARTICULATE social conservative as well as a committed one. He won't apologize or mince words in that category.
The challenge for Ryan on the campaign trail will be to avoid wonkishness. With the arcane nature of his budget work and his natural intellectual approach to that work, he will have to work and practice to reduce concepts down to simpler terms for the general public. But he has the inherent self-discipline that makes it possible for him to refine his words as he must.
Romney has improved his chances by selecting Ryan, not only because of Ryan's merits but also because it affirms Romney's serious commitment to the challenges of governing.
The V-P debate with Biden will be something to behold. Ryan should not hold back there. Now if we could just re-create another Ryan vs. Obama encounter . . .