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Published August 13 2012

Forum editorial: Paul Ryan cranks up intensity

Republicans should be giddy that Mitt Romney tapped Paul Ryan to be the vice presidential running mate on the November ballot. The veteran Wisconsin congressman brings energy, youth and real ideas to the Romney campaign, which thus far has been bereft of all three.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, immediately energized Republican voters with the Ryan selection, much as Sen. John McCain lifted his campaign in 2008 by picking former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for VP. The good news for Romney and Republicans is that Ryan is substantive, thoughtful and experienced, which Palin was not.

That being said, Ryan’s baggage includes his federal budget proposal (the 14-year congressman is chairman of the House Budget Committee), which serves up for the campaign of President Barack Obama a wealth of information that can – and will – be used to scare the bejabbers out of constituencies ranging from farmers to senior citizens to college students. Indeed, Romney already is backing away from the Ryan budget, saying earlier this week, “I have my budget plan, and that’s the budget plan we’re going to run on.”

Ryan also will have some explaining to do to regarding his votes for the bank and auto industry bailouts, two bipartisan initiatives that are anathema to the rightest of the right in his party. And given that he’s been one of those “career politicians” and “Washington insiders” all his adult life, Ryan might have some difficulty justifying his strident anti-government rhetoric.

Nonetheless, Ryan is a winner for the ticket. He’s articulate and forceful. At age 42, he’s young enough to be Romney’s son, and it appears the rapport between the two men is genuine. Ryan has been described as a “happy warrior,” willing to be a scrappy debater in defending his principles. That quality resonates with Americans, no matter their political persuasion.

But the most important factor for Republicans in the Ryan nod is that it suggests Romney is the conservative he says he is. Rank-and-file Republicans have not warmed to, in the words of Newt Gingrich, “the Massachusetts moderate.” Romney has not generated the intense affinity Republicans will need to defeat an incumbent who, despite a weak economy, still leads in most polls. Romney should be doing better with his message of economic conservatism, business acumen and fiscal responsibility, but he’s not.

Ryan can crank up the intensity. Ryan can move those Republicans who have been unsure about Romney into the Romney-Ryan fold. If the polls are right, most Americans have already made up their minds about Obama and Romney. A small segment of undecided voters likely will make the difference in November. Many of them will find in Ryan’s clear, uncompromising voice just what they want to hear.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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