1. Obviously, there was no bigger news than Mitt Romney tapping Paul Ryan to be his running mate. Romney has added to his generally policy-phobic campaign one of the brightest, most articulate defenders of a comprehensive fiscal policy in the entire party.
2. For the Ryan pick to work, it must be part of a larger amping up of the campaign’s message: sharpening and adding meat to the economic argument against President Obama, presenting a positive case for a ticket that can rescue the government from Greece-like insolvency, and pushing back the Democratic narrative that Republicans don’t understand regular people. Ryan should also be utilized in discussions of social issues like life, not just economics. Simply plugging Ryan into the existing campaign will not work. Too vulnerable to charges that Republicans see people as numbers on a balance sheet.
3. Expect the Republican ticket to pound hard on the idea that the Democrats are actually cutting Medicare for current recipients, which is not what Romney-Ryan are proposing to do. The argument has the benefit of being true, though there is no guarantee it will work as it runs counter to the Democrats longstanding image as the party of Medicare.
4. There have been a lot of comparisons between Romney-Ryan and Dole-Kemp. I’ve made them myself, but I do think there is one important distinction. Jack Kemp was well past his prime in 1996: out of Congress for eight years, didn’t get very far in his 1988 presidential campaign, mostly sidelined in the first Bush administration, increasingly a conservative hero of the previous decade like Paul Laxalt or Phil Crane. That’s not a criticism of any of these men, but it reflects where they were in their political careers at the time.
Paul Ryan was chosen while he is still a rising figure in the party and still someone setting the fiscal agenda. Ryan is young (Kemp was 61 in 1996), has no losing campaigns to his name, and his vice presidential bid has less of a valedictory feel to it. And I say that as someone who circa 1994 wanted Kemp on top of the ’96 ticket. One test for Ryan is whether he can become as popular with conservative voters as he already is among conservative journalists and policy analysts.
5. Should Romney talk about the big banks? Taking on “too big to fail” will help obviate the perceived need for future bailouts, a political advantage for a Republican ticket with two TARP supporters. It also lets Romney be populist without violating free-market principles and play against type.
6. On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters will decide a contentious Republican primary. The three main candidates are Tommy Thompson, the longtime former governor and Bush administration HHS secretary (plus short-term 2008 presidential candidate), businessman Eric Hovde, and conservative former Congressman Mark Neumann. Thompson has recently deteroriated from the welfare reform-pioneering governor of the ’80s and ’90s to establishment type who has flirted with everything form embryo-destructive stem-cell research to early versions of Obamacare. Hovde is hitting everyone else on taxes even though he hasn’t taken the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Neumann ran a widely panned campaign against Scott Walker, who has proven conservative enough.