Politics

Paul Ryan’s selection electrifies GOP grassroots

Paul Ryan’s selection electrifies GOP grassroots

The Human Events 2011 Conservative of the Year, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), will be announced this morning as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, according to early reports.  Romney will formally announce his choice at a news conference this morning as early as 8:45 a.m.

Reaction from Republicans was swift — and enthusiastic.

“In choosing Paul Ryan, Gov. Romney is signaling he wants to change the course of government, not manage it.  This is the start of an aggressive, ideas campaign!”

So said California’s Republican State Chairman Tom Del Beccaro Friday night, shortly after television news reports strongly suggesting that Romney was planning to name House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential running mate Saturday morning.  Del Beccaro was hosting a private party of fellow California GOP leaders in his suite at the Burbank Marriott here during the state Republican convention.  To a person, the other party activists were genuinely excited about the 42-year-old Ryan’s selection, and all echoed their chairman’s confidence that this was a first step in what would be a campaign grounded in conservative ideas and change.

“I’m as grassroots as you can get and I’m thrilled about Ryan!” Alameda County GOP Vice Chairman Hugh Busell told Human Events, “He had the courage to say why we needed to eventually change the nature of entitlements such as Medicare, and he could explain it.”

As news outlets confirmed that the Badger State lawmaker would indeed be tapped by Romney on Saturday, Republicans activists throughout the country last night seemed to be trying to outdo the excitement evinced at the Burbank convention last night.  Minnesota State GOP Chairman Pat Shortridge told reporters: “Ryan’s a great pick.  This proves Gov. Romney knows that getting to 270 electoral votes is a means to an end.  Only bold solutions will suffice.”

Arizona Rep. and GOP Senate hopeful Jeff Flake was even more ecstatic, as he tweeted supporters: “Wow! What a powerhouse economic team! It drips of gravitas.  Can’t wait for the fall elections.”

In reportedly tapping Ryan over over two other more low-key Midwesterners—Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty—Romney clearly recognized that he needed a running mate with conservative credentials (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 93 percent) and one who could energize the conservative grassroots.  As the author of the Republican alternative budget known as the “Path to Prosperity” (or “the Ryan Plan,” in press shorthand), the Wisconsin lawmaker became a media sensation and a much-sought-after speaker for fellow Republicans running for office. Shortly after release of the “Ryan Plan” in March, its author became the vice presidential prospect with the most media coverage, according to HighBeam research. Its polling showed Ryan besting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 27 percent to 23.5 percent in terms of media attention.

Advantages of Ryan on the ticket—and perils

But it also made Ryan a target of the left, and attacks on the man and his budget are sure to be recycled by the Obama-Biden campaign. From his podium at the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney denounced the Ryan Plan as “a segmented replacement for Medicare that would burden seniors and end the program as we know it.” One Democratic ad in a 2011 special U.S. House election had a Ryan lookalike pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair off a cliff.

Issues and grassroots excitement top the list of advantages of a Romney –Ryan ticket.  Ryan would be one of the three youngest vice presidents in history–along with Democrat John Breckinridge (elected at 35) and Republicans Richard Nixon (41) and Dan Quayle (42)—and already Republicans talk eagerly about him going up against the 69-year-old Joe Biden in televised debates. A strong pro-lifer and supporter of traditional marriage, Ryan will also become only the second Roman Catholic to be on a national GOP ticket after William Miller, Barry Goldwater’s running mate in 1964.

Ryan also comes from a state with ten electoral votes that has not gone for a Republican presidential ticket since 1984.  Emboldened by their defeat of an effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker for his reforms of pension and health care plans for some public sector employees, Badger State GOPers are sure to be encouraged further by the choice of one of their own for second place on their ticket.

In the days and weeks ahead, there  is sure to be much analysis into a choice that was little anticipated by the punditocracy.  But for now, Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan was clearly a bow to his party’s right-of-center activists and, by nearly all accounts, they are thrilled.

[Editors' note: Click here for some of Ryan's most notable moments in the spotlight, including a series of Web videos he created to introduce his "Path to Prosperity" budget.  Reactions from top conservatives and Republican officials can be found here.]

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