Paul Ryan VP 2012: Buzz Growing as Romney Decision Nears

The conservative National Review reports that Paul Ryan is being officially vetted to be on the Romney ticket. What is the likelihood of a Romney/Ryan ticket and what would it mean? Let’s start at the beginning:

In 1994, Paul Ryan was moonlighting as a waiter at a D.C. Mexican restaurant, and as a fitness trainer. And yes, the congressman still works out every day.

Since then, the GOP “young gun” has become a hot topic of discussion on Capitol Hill as a future leader of a fiscally conservative movement. Once a speechwriter for 1996 vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, Ryan was elected to his first term in Congress in 1998 at the age of 28.

Now the frontman for the House Budget Committee, Ryan has a wealth of legislative experience. But, due to getting elected to the House at such a young age, Ryan does not have the private sector experience that Romney finds so important.

Nonetheless, the famed Ryan budget, which focuses on entitlement reform, austerity and, of course, tax cuts, has been the go-to answer for Republicans when faced with growing deficits.

But the contradictions between his legislative record and the conservative rhetoric under the Obama administration just don’t wash.

Ryan voted for TARP, the auto bailout, and all of the stimulus. 

This is very problematic for the champion of Republican fiscal conservatism. Still, it could help Ryan among moderates as all of these laws slowed the economic slide of 2008-2009.

Despite this, the congressman has prominent fans backing him for the VP slot.

“I think he's probably it if you really want to tackle the budget and economic crisis, he's the guy, there's nobody better," said Wisconsin’s embattled Gov. Scott Walker at a June 18 Romney rally in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, WI.

Some other tea leaf-reading:

Ryan was the first Romney campaign surrogate sent to North Carolina to host an event.

After endorsing Romney ahead of the Wisconsin primary in April, Ryan has joined Romney several times on the campaign trail.

The Washington Post painted Ryan as “someone able to finish (Romney’s) sentences and make him laugh.”

Real Clear Politics has the shortlist at four: Ryan, Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA), Sen. Rob Portman (OH), and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. 

Sidenote: The omission of Sen. Marco Rubio in this list is surprising, especially to the hard right Tea Party contingent largely responsible for Rubio’s rising star. 

When word got out last month that Romney was not vetting Rubio for VP, Romney denied it strongly, claiming only he and his assistant knew who was being vetted, presumably making a truthful leak impossible.

In my opinion, if Romney does not pick Rubio, he loses Florida (29 electoral votes) and all chance of victory in November.

Putting Ryan on the ticket, however, could swing a shaky purple Wisconsin electorate to Romney. 

Pawlenty and Jindal offer no such help in the electoral math (Joe Mauer and Kirby Puckett could not swing Minnesota to Romney). Rob Portman, long talked up in the beltway as an ideal VP candidate, has low name recognition, but could tighten the razor-thin Ohio race.

The 2012 Ryan budget “2.0,” a.k.a. the Path to Prosperity, a.k.a. the Path to America’s Future, slashes Medicare and Social Security for all Americans under 55. Paul Krugman calls it “the most fraudulent budget in American history.”

In sum, Paul Ryan’s politics are an echo of the Bush era (tax cuts) spiked with draconian European-style austerity. The economic problems of today have been brought on by a blind trust in the free market, culminating in an inordinate amount of power in private industry and the Federal Reserve, led by Ayn Rand disciple Alan Greenspan and his apprentice, Ben Bernanke. 

"The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand," Ryan said at a 2005 function honoring the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

Is another Ayn Rand disciple really what we need?

In fairness, Ryan declined to speak at this year's annual gathering of the Atlas Society, bending to the political winds that are blowing in this economy, possibly in preparation to be on the ticket.

Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney really are a perfect match.

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Joseph Doolen

A science policy writer with professional experience writing in Washington, San Francisco and Madison, Joseph holds an MS in Biology, an MA in Journalism and is pursuing a PhD. For media organizations, he has covered San Francisco Bay Area environmental news, D.C. politics and Wisconsin state news. This year he is writing for Yale, the Obama campaign and covering AAAS in Vancouver. Joseph has done environmental work and science research in Texas and at the flagship universities of Illinois, Wisconsin and Cal-Berkeley.

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