Speculation over Mitt Romney’s possible running mate has been rampant over the last few days. While other names are being floated, including David Petraeus and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, most observers seem to agree that it’s likely down to three candidates — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
Out of the three, Rep. Ryan is garnering the most attention. Many conservatives seem to want him included on the ticket, and they’re laying out a strong case. David Harsanyi, for example, explains that Rep. Ryan “would add a measure of number-crunching earnestness to a campaign (and then, more importantly, should it happen, to an administration) that lives on broad strokes.” However, some want him to remain in remain in the House, where, as chairman of the Budget Committee, he has laid the blueprint to fiscal reform. My colleagues Jeremy Kolassa and George Scoville have already touched on the need for Rep. Ryan to remain in the House for exactly this reason. Over at Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis noted that, as Vice President, Ryan would be largely marginalized.
Perhaps this divide among conservatives over whether Rep. Ryan should be on the ticket highlights the need for him to remain where he is. As I explained earlier this week, Rep. Ryan would likely be a polarizing pick because of the budget proposals he has put forward. To be sure, he’s no Sarah Palin, who was a terrible running mate, or Joe Biden, who is just gaffe-tastic. As an aside, if Romney does pick Ryan, I plan on watching the vice presidential debate with him Biden. That should be good television.
Ryan’s is incredibly intelligent and is very good in dialogue with ideological opponents. But President Obama has already falsely attacked the budget proposals put forward by House Republicans, which Rep. Ryan largely designed. From that perspective, Ryan is not a “safe pick,” though that’s not to say that he doesn’t have a tremendous upside.
Another point to consider is that if Romney puts Rep. Ryan on the ticket and loses, it could tarnish any future prospects the latter wishes to have. Remember, Ryan is only 42 years old. He may still have a long political career in front of him.
For what it’s worth, Portman and Pawlenty, the other potential running mate picks, leave a lot to be desire. Portman is unknown even in his home state and Pawlenty is, well, the worst of any of the potential choices. But while Rep. Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” may not be perfect, conservatives should want him sticking it out in the Congress, which is where policy really matters, rather than taking a largely ceremonial, pointless job.