The Corner

The Romney-Ryan Reagan Factor

A suggestion to everyone who was convinced Romney would go “safe” and pick Rob Portman: Give this candidate a second look, you may not know him as well as you think you do.

I’m delighted by the Ryan pick, but the top of the ticket was never too shoddy himself. The Paul Ryan pick was a wise governing choice, but Ryan is not the savior of some desperate or failing campaign. Mitt Romney is not the helplessly flawed candidate some have portrayed him as. 

You know how people are always looking for the next Reagan? There may just be something of what they’re looking for in Romney, as I wrote in April. Additionally, a Romney administration, which we now know would have plenty of practical Washington and policy know-how in its vice president, would have a better environment than Reagan did. A little more:

In 2010, the electorate was unhappy and demanded change. Even demographic groups that had traditionally voted Democratic — perhaps most notably women, given recent and perpetual Democratic claims — gave the GOP a try. But there’s only so much you can change when the president’s not on the ballot. And in 2012, the causes of discontent — unemployment and economic uncertainty — some of which are the direct result of the current president and his policies, remain. With those and other issues on the table — religious liberty most alarmingly — this election could be bigger than 1980, with just the right man with just the right skill set to be a transformational leader.

“I do think Romney is exceedingly well suited to this particular moment and what it requires,” says Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs. “What’s needed is basically the modernization of the American economy, and especially of the American public sector, and that kind of modernization to improve efficiency and better suit a failing enterprise to the demands of a competitive economy is what Romney has always done well.”

Jay Cost, author of the forthcoming book Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, adds: “I think the biggest lesson Romney should take from Reagan is the latter’s singular focus on restoring American greatness. Reagan’s campaign was like a laser-guided missile that focused entirely on the issue of the economy. This helped him win the election . . . but it also gave him a real mandate to implement his tax-cut plan in the summer of 1981.”

Reagan faced a cold war, hyperinflation, and a slowdown in productivity growth. Still, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, observes that on “balance Romney has a better setting. But he has to express belief in America and govern accordingly.”

#page#“Reagan not only talked about his belief in America, he governed with a quiet confidence,” Holtz-Eakin recalls. “He was willing to draft bills . . . not punt to Congress, and got Democratic cosponsors on key bills including tax cuts and spending reforms. This showed he was sure his ideas were both right and broadly accepted. Romney needs to do that as well.”

Romney has the clarifying issues of liberty and stewardship: Will our children and grandchildren still live in the kind of nation our ancestors came here for? “Four years ago,” Romney said last week in his victory speech after winning five primaries, “Barack Obama dazzled us in front of Greek columns with sweeping promises of hope and change. But after we came down to earth, after the celebration and parades, what do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama?” Romney continued: “Because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions. That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time. But not here and not now.”

This is going to be a long election yet, but am I alone in being optimistic?

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