In picking Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney doubled down on the economy as an issue in the upcoming campaign while taking a stand firmly on the side of the future.
A member of the younger generation of GOP leaders, Ryan is an important figure in the congressional party's reform wing. On policy matters his selection sends a reassuring message, especially to those conservatives who continue to be concerned about Romney's conservative credentials.
Politically, it took a few days to determine whether the Wisconsin Republican would be an asset to the ticket or a liability. Following his appearance at the Iowa State Fair over the weekend, it's pretty clear that Ryan is a tremendous asset.
When liberal activists—probably dispatched to the event by Barack Obama's campaign or its union allies—began to heckle him and then rushed the stage, he not only didn't back down, he responded to their taunts with humor and a smile. It's pretty clear indication there won't be a "deer in the headlights" moment for him anytime soon or ever.
It's good to know he won't crack under pressure, seeing as how these kinds of events will be common in the upcoming campaign—not that most people would ever know it. Heckling is only an issue to most of the political media when it's being done to Democrats while they are speaking. And misbehaving crowds are only an issue when its conservatives who are the ones who are supposedly being naughty. This is the basic narrative in the coverage of the Tea Party since its inception and it's almost certain to continue through the November election, despite the fact that few if any of the things they are alleged to have done have ever been proven.
Ryan excites the GOP base. He's a "consistent conservative," one who understands the "three-legged stool" aspect of the national Republican majority: respect for traditional values, limited government to secure economic prosperity, and the need for a strong national defense. This gives him a broad appeal that will energize all the elements of the coalition the GOP needs to assemble to win in November.
His appeal, though, is broader than that. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years, he's a transitional as well as a transformational pick. The first member of "Generation X" to have a spot on a national ticket, the 42-year-old former congressional intern is widely regarded as one of the smartest people on Capitol Hill.
With this pick, Romney is signaling he has his eyes firmly fixed on America's future. Ryan is a representative of America's next generation of leaders, the ones who will have to come up with the solutions to solve the problems President Obama has created, principally through his overspending ways.
Moreover, having Ryan on the ticket sets the stage for the fall debate by creating a clear contrast between the two tickets. On the one hand is Obama-Biden, which sees more government, higher taxes, and increased spending as the answer to just about every question. On the other is Romney-Ryan, which stands for limited government, lower taxes, individual initiative, and spending restraint. On issue after issue the contrast could not be clearer, even in healthcare—where Obama has suggested time and again that the approach he took was based on the proposal Romney pushed through the Massachusetts Legislature during his single term as governor.
The American people need to make up their minds as to which approach they want moving forward. With overwhelming numbers of them registering dissatisfaction with the current state of the nation—saying it is on the "wrong track" rather than being headed in the "right direction"—they are clearly open to having the discussion.
Should the country move back toward free enterprise and individualism rather than continue down the road to collectivism? Does the path to a real American economic recovery head in the direction of sustainable fiscal restraint or unsustainable borrowing and continued fiscal irresponsibility? Do we want to observe the constitutional limits the Founding Fathers intended be placed on the federal government or do we want it to accrue more and more power and influence over every aspect of our lives? Should American have a strong military capable of dealing with all potential threats or should it continue to be downsized, regardless of the possible costs? Must we strengthen the family or the government as a replacement for the role the family has traditionally played in the life of the nation?
These are the questions before the American electorate. The two tickets represent dramatically different visions of the nation's future. Two paths forward, paths that are as different as can be. Now, more than in previous elections, the hard questions must be addressed. In November there is a choice, and the people will make it.