A few highly random first thoughts on the Ryan pick:
1. Very obviously it demolishes the argument that Mitt Romney is an overly cautious and timid politician. The pick is bold, even imaginative. It will change the opinion of many people, not merely conservatives, about the governor’s essential political nature — and favorably too.
2. It also weakens the argument that Romney is not a conservative on policy. If not, why did he choose someone who is perhaps the leading fiscal conservative at a moment in U.S. history when fiscal policy is at the top of the agenda?
3. Ryan will also bring the Tea Party fully on board. He’s got Sarah Palin’s credentials with them without any of her (to me adorable) drawbacks. He’s either Sarah-heavy or Palin-Lite, whichever you prefer. Which means he doesn’t grate culturally on non-Middle America.
4. So will we have a substantive political debate on the economy and the entitlement state this fall as a result of this choice? Or will we have a campaign of mudslinging and slander on the model of the last week? Answer: We’ll have mudslinging and slanderous debate over the economy and entitlement state. Why? Obama and Co. can’t avoid such a debate and can’t win an honest one. Ryan’s thoughtful but bold (that word again!) budget plan is open to misrepresention. It will therefore be misrepresented hideously. So it’s vital for Romney and Ryan to put their case on it fully, clearly, brilliantly, and right away.
5. And why otherwise is it risky? Ryan will probably win Wisconsin for Romney but he may also put Florida at risk because of point 4 above.
6. Choosing a Catholic as your junior partner when you’re a Mormon in a Protestant country with a significant electoral bloc of Evangelicals is another bold aspect to Mitt’s choice. It would have been madness even 20 years ago, but something big has happened since then to make it advantageous. The Catholics and the Evangelicals have come together over a range of social issues and are now allies. A Catholic on the ticket will soothe most of those Evangelicals anxious about Romney’s Mormonism. (If the ticket wins, it should thank the late Richard Neuhaus who did so much to create and promote Catholics and Evangelicals together. It won’t please mainline Protestants, for the same reason, but this shrinking High Wasp constituency has been a lost cause for about a quarter of a century.)
7. This choice should also mean that the Catholic bishops may move from being hostile to President Obama to being friendly toward Governor Romney. They will be cautious and prudent in their pronouncements, but they will have to be clear in their defense of religious liberty and therefore in their preference for Romney-Ryan. It’s hard to see the ticket not winning more Catholic votes than in 2008.
8. Joe Biden must be quaking — and Hillary may be hoping. People forget the fact, and though reporting by the establishment media disguised it at the time, Sarah Palin knocked Biden around the ring in the 2008 debate. Joe is slightly more experienced now than in 2008, but he had been a senator for decades even then. Ryan is very well-informed and highly fluent — the debating opponent from hell. Should be fun.
9. The great and good Brit Hume is on record as saying that veep choices don’t determine the election result. With almost no exceptions — Johnson in 1960? — Brit is unsurprisingly right. But veep choices often determine an election or two after the one immediately ahead. Consider as exhibit one Reagan’s 1980 choice of George Bush, which determined four of the next five elections.
10. Whether or not Romney-Ryan wins in November, this choice signals the end of the Bush Family dominance of the GOP. Of course, some future Bush of real political talent may win through in the primaries, but he won’t start out as the GOP’s establishment choice. He won’t enjoy the Mandate of Heaven. Bushies suddenly seem yesterday’s men — more honorably and respectably than the Kennedys (of course) but no less decisively. The caravan has moved on.