I’d first like to thank Mitt Romney for publicly proving me wrong.
Some time ago on Wisconsin Public Radio, I said I didn’t think any Wisconsinite — Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Ron Johnson or anyone else — would be Romney’s vice presidential candidate. Wisconsinites (at least a majority thereof who vote) have gone for Democrats for the White House since Michael Dukakis in 1988.
Even though Ryan has been successful in what used to be considered a swing district (as recently as the 1990s Ryan’s First Congressional District was represented by Democrats Les Aspin and Peter Barca), it seemed, and seems, unlikely that adding Ryan to the Republican ticket would put Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes in Romney’s column. There therefore seemed little value to adding Ryan to the presidential ticket.
In my lifetime, the only vice presidential choice that could be argued to have made a difference among voters was Dick Cheney in 2000. Cheney provided the gravitas that George W. Bush seemed to lack, which may have swung undecided voters toward Bush. John McCain’s 2008 selection of Sarah Palin generated enthusiasm among Republicans, but McCain wasn’t going to beat Barack Obama anyway. Walter Mondale’s 1984 selection of Geraldine Ferraro briefly generated enthusiasm among Democrats, but it’s hard to see how picking Ferraro improved what turned out to be a 49-state juggernaut. Ronald Reagan’s 1980 selection of George Bush, his main primary rival, served to unify the GOP, but given what the economy was doing, Jimmy Carter would have lost (and deserved to lose) to nearly any candidate not named Carter.
The Ryan pick means the Republicans are going all-in on Ryan’s economic plan, which mere existence shows that the Republicans are serious about the deficit, the debt and entitlement reform, unlike the Obama administration. It also helps reinforce the GOP’s stance on the poor state of the economy, as in …
… and making the case that the deficit is a cause of the bad economy, not merely a result of it. Voters will not be able to argue that they don’t have a choice, because Romney–Ryan represents doing things differently from how they have done since Jan. 20, 2009.
(Obama and his parrots argue that we tried the Romney–Ryan approach in the 2000s. No, we didn’t. There was nothing approximating fiscal discipline — as in not spending more than you have — in the George W. Bush administration. There was no fiscal discipline in the Clinton administration either; the “surplus” — which was actually from counting more revenue than should be counted, in their case the Social Security surpluses of the day — was the result of the economy, not of policy.)
This pick might also prove that a sea change in Wisconsin’s politics really has taken place. Until Scott Walker became governor Wisconsin’s contribution to national politics was on the left side — the Progressive Era, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and Earth Day, to name three.
But in the 2010 election, the party of the governor, state treasurer, one U.S. Senate seat, two House of Representatives and both houses of the Legislature all switched. The (illegitimate) state Senate recalls flipped the Senate back to the Democrats until Nov. 6, when control is likely to revert back to the GOP. Walker is arguably the best known governor in the U.S. now, and other governors are following Walker’s lead on putting public employee unions in their proper place. Wisconsin has brought welfare reform (Tommy Thompson), government and fiscal reform (Walker) and fiscal and entitlement reform (Ryan) to the political debate, and that has to make Democrats grind their molars into dust in disgust.
The Republican Party has always claimed the mantle of fiscal responsibility, often in theory more than practice. Maybe the GOP is finally living up to its own words.