Keep an Eye on Ryan

by Robert Costa

Tomorrow night, Paul Ryan will speak at CPAC. National Review Online has obtained an embargoed copy of the speech. It’s powerful stuff. He’ll talk about how Republicans share responsibility for the fiscal crisis. And he’ll detail President Obama’s dismal record. But the big theme is that Republicans need to make 2012 more than a “referendum.” He wants it to be a “choice.”

“The easy way is always tempting,” he’ll tell conservatives, urging them to avoid a victory “by default.” Bold ideas, he’ll say, are the only way to win a mandate:

I know there are people in this town who are terrified at the prospect of an election with real alternative visions at stake. “Make it a referendum. Win by default,” they say. “Just oppose – we can win that way. Don’t propose bold ideas – that’s too risky.” I’ll admit, the easy way is always tempting. But my friends, if that’s all we stand for, then what are we doing at here CPAC – the place where so many giants of our movement came to advance their boldest ideas?  The next President will face fiscal and economic challenges that are huge, almost unprecedented. He can’t resolve these challenges if he wins by default. He needs a mandate – not just to displace Barack Obama, but to preserve and strengthen the very Idea of America.

Everybody knows this is politically risky territory. Republicans have their battle scars on entitlement reform. That’s why some argue that we should downplay bold agendas and simply wage a campaign focused solely on the President and his party. I firmly disagree. Boldness and clarity offer the greatest opportunity to create a winning coalition. We will not only win the next election – we have a unique opportunity to sweep and remake the political landscape.

Another theme is GOP unity. He’ll take care, in the heat of the primary fight, to underscore the importance of a broad, engaged conservative coalition:

For all of the overblown talk about conservative divisions, our movement has achieved astonishing unity, not only on the destination we want to reach, but also on the specific path to get there.  We have transformed the debate in Washington over our nation’s fiscal future. 

While President Obama shirks his responsibility to advance solutions to our fiscal challenges, he can no longer hide from the merciless math of the balance sheet… His proposals have three things in common: they load massive tax increases on small businesses and hardworking families, they require bureaucratic rationing in government health care programs, and they hollow out our national security. 

Every time we force the President and his party’s leaders to get specific on how they would solve our fiscal challenges, they show us an agenda that does great harm to our economic security, our health security, and our national security.

And at the end, when he talks up the “American idea” and the importance of “choosing” our destiny, Ryan’s words echo, in tone and text, one specific speech. That passage is being kept under wraps until the CPAC dinner. But believe me, it’s good.

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