I’ve been trying to think of something new to say about Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee. Before he was tapped by Mitt Romney, I deemed him a risky pick as a running mate. And I’ve said that Ryan is already overshadowing Romney. And everyone else has said just everything else. But, as is the scribbler’s way, there are a few little things that should be noted — and they all involve Sarah Palin.
Palin in 2008 and Ryan today have one big thing in common: They brought energy to beleaguered campaigns. Remember how terrified Democrats were of losing to McCain-Palin between the end of the Republican convention and Sept. 15, when the economy imploded? McCain was energized by the reaction to his pick. And so, it seems, is Romney by his. From the “60 Minutes” interview to the rally in Wisconsin last night, we’ve seen an animated rather animatronic Romney.
Here, in ways big and small, is how Ryan and Palin differ.
Ryan actually has the policy heft that Palin pretended to have. Sure, like Palin, Ryan has no foreign policy experience. But I certainly don’t expect Ryan to be as disastrous in international relations. Not because Palin set the bar so low that I felt more qualified to run for vice president just by being able to answer the questions posed to her. But because Ryan is a hard worker who will study actual policy rather memorize lines to get through a debate or interview.
Palin was a statewide elected official before she quit her office halfway through her first term as governor. Ryan is a seven-term congressman who has never run statewide, let alone nationally. Thanks to his “Roadmap” and subsequent budget plans, Ryan has spent more than two years under the hot lights of national scrutiny. Yet, the lights of a presidential campaign burn with the heat of a thousand suns. We’ll soon see whether Ryan can handle that. But this much I know: He won’t wilt.
Finally, here’s the biggest and most important difference between Ryan and Palin. With his selection, the 42-year-old Ryan is the bona fide leader with the necessary policy chops that conservatives hoped Palin would be. She was poised to be the leader of the Republican Party after her 2008 defeat, but she squandered her future potential on reality TV shows and point-scoring from her perch at Fox News. That Palin won’t be speaking at the convention in Tampa is proof that her Republican reign mercifully may be over.