Inside Man

Paul Ryan is a Smart Pick

Ryan brings fiscal intellect to the Romney ticket—and knows the GOP budget plan better than anyone.

Mitt Romney's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate will make this election campaign dramatically better. Rather than the grammar-school, nanny-nanny-boo-boo politics we have been subjected to by both sides over the past month or so, now the discussion will immediately turn to Ryan's budget plan.

As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan's budget is a detailed blueprint for bringing federal spending in line with federal revenues. As we suggested on these pages very recently, Ryan is one of the very few people in America who have actually read the Ryan budget, and therefore, has the upper hand in any questions about what is in it.

The selection of Ryan is a close analog to then–senator Barack Obama's selection of Sen. Joe Biden four years ago. Obama needed to reassure the political intelligencia that he was a serious guy and understood he was weak on the inner workings of the U.S. Senate. Obama had only been elected to the Senate in 2004 (taking his seat in January of 2005) and unabashedly spent virtually all of 2007 and 2008 campaigning for President. Biden, on the other hand, had been elected to the U.S. Senate when he was only 29. He reached the constitutional age requirement of 30 before he took his oath of office in January 1972 and so had been a creature of the Senate—as a member and as vice president—for the past 40 years.

Biden was also chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which covered Obama's flanks on foreign affairs where he had almost no experience. This was, remember, when Iraq and Afghanistan were high on everyone's list of crucial issues to be solved.

Now that the struggling economy is the central issue, Ryan's understanding of the budget—down to the last semicolon—provides Romney with the same granular (and unquestioned) expertise as did Biden to Obama four years ago. As a member of the U.S. House for seven years, Ryan also provides an insider's knowledge of who does what—both at the member (especially the youngish GOP House leadership) and at the senior staff levels—as Biden has done for Obama.

The Ryan pick provides the GOP ticket with the same generational balance as Biden did for Obama. On election day 2008, Obama was 47 and Biden was 66. On election day 2012 Romney will be 65 and Ryan will be 42.

Paul Ryan may put Wisconsin "in play," but we know how successful candidates have been in trying to pick a VP running mate to win a specific state. Not since Lyndon Johnson has that tactic worked. But being from the upper Midwest makes him a less easy target for the most conservative wing of the GOP—he's not another Northeastern moderate—and a tougher target for the liberal wing of the Democratic party; he's not a white Southerner who might have had a Confederate flag hanging in his college dorm room.

Mitt Romney had a talented group of people to choose from to be his running mate: senators, governors, and House members. In picking Paul Ryan, Romney, as the Grail Knight said to Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, "chose wisely."