Friday, August 03, 2012

No Time for Safety

Ben Domenech makes The Case for Romney-Ryan:

The general sentiment of the Ryan boomlet is this: unlike Pawlenty or Portman, Ryan changes the conversation in this election. The left might find that favorable; they believe Ryan's ideas are too politically toxic to win on them nationally. But there are a number of reasons I believe Ryan is a less risky choice than some might argue, and unlike those who believe Romney can win with his play-it-safe strategy, counting on the unemployment situation to vault him into the White House, I think Ryan changes the conversation in a way that would prove electorally helpful to Romney.

A Romney-Ryan ticket would refocus both campaigns on entitlements, fiscal policy, and issues of debt and deficit immediately - issues that Romney feels he can lead on, where Obama has not, and where Ryan is an expert in arguing in the public square. Ryan sends a message about the seriousness of the fiscal challenge we face, one that Portman and Pawlenty do not.

What's more, the attack is coming anyway. This fall, the left will tie Romney to Ryan's ideas regardless of whether he's the choice. The White House is going to blanket Florida with "they're going to kill you" ads; so if you're going to get the granny over the cliff ads anyway, why not get a guy fully experienced in responding to them?

This is similar to an argument advanced by David Harsanyi earlier this week. No matter who the veep choice is, the Democrats and media are going to say that person wants to destroy Social Security and dismantle Medicare. So you might as well go with the guy who actually knows what he’s talking about when it comes to entitlement reform.

Having your best defender on an area of policy on your ticket is an advantage. Ryan's ability to defend his policies, and his improvement in making the case for them, would be a strong asset for Romney. Ryan has been thoroughly subjected to the media gauntlet and the pressure of the White House. He is used to the hot lights now, and comfortable making the case for his ideas. Ryan's argument for his approach has also improved dramatically in the past year or so - where his opponents still talk numbers, he talks increasingly of morality.

Arthur Brooks and Charles Murray have both recently called on defenders of free market capitalism to make moral arguments for why it’s better than the alternatives. The same case needs to be made for entitlement reform. It’s more than just a numbers argument.

As convincing as these arguments are for a Romney-Ryan ticket, I’m skeptical that’s what we’ll see. So far, Romney mostly seems content to follow a play it safe campaign strategy. And going with a Portman or a Pawlenty would be a safe choice.

But even though the economy shows little signs of improving and President Obama’s campaign seems more and more capable of imploding on its own, I fear that if Romney continues this approach it could end up costing him. He needs to get the American people engaged in a serious debate about the country’s fiscal future and needs to present a clear choice between the path he would take and the one President Obama is leading us down. He needs Paul Ryan.