But from the moment Ryan introduced his blueprint, called the Path to Prosperity, Democrats have considered his plan to fundamentally alter Medicare to be the most politically vulnerable of his budget recommendations. That’s one big reason Democrats were gleeful when the news broke late Friday night that Romney had selected the Wisconsin congressman as his vice presidential running mate.
Republicans familiar with the deliberations that led to the pick say Romney and his advisers went into this marriage with eyes open about the pluses and minuses of putting the House Budget Committee chairman on the ticket.
Ryan’s addition has brought an infusion of energy into the Republican campaign and turned Romney, in the short run, into a more invigorated candidate. And, Republicans say, Ryan has the potential to put Wisconsin in play and help get votes in other Great Lakes states.
They also note that other candidates on Romney’s short list had pros and cons. Sen. Rob Portman might have helped win Ohio, his home state, but he would have brought the baggage of having served high up in President George W. Bush’s administration. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has been a vigorous advocate for Romney, but he would not have put his state in play and would not have excited the base they way Ryan does.
Ryan’s budget and Medicare proposals were fully weighed as Romney and his advisers evaluated the choices for a running mate, those familiar with the process said. On balance, the conclusion was that Ryan, more than any other contender, offered the possibility of elevating the debate. The view in Boston is that Romney can win a campaign on big issues but not on small ones. In that calculus, Ryan won out.
That’s not the only reason Romney ended up going with the seven-term House member. Republicans say we shouldn’t underestimate the personal chemistry and similarities in personality and makeup between Ryan and Romney — they share an essential geekiness. Ryan, like Romney, is a numbers person who likes to break down problems and solve them after digesting reams of data.
The choice, like most vice presidential selections, also was a way for Romney to say something bigger about the kind of campaign he hopes to run. In that sense, advisers say, Ryan was “Mitt’s pick, completely.”
“Stories talk about it being a bold choice,” said one senior Romney adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about the decision. “To me, it was a confident choice. He was very confident in himself, in Paul Ryan, in the campaign and in the direction of the campaign he wanted to take.”