“We’re very much inclined in the same direction,” Romney says. “We spoke together about my plans on Medicare, for instance, and ultimately the Wyden-Ryan bill is very similar, if not identical, to what I proposed some time ago. We all have ideas about what should be done with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security — and we’re on the same page on those issues.”
“We want to solve our long-term balance-sheet problem, and by that I mean Medicare and Social Security,” Romney says. “We also want to solve our deficit by getting us to a balanced budget through two things — one is spending reductions and program eliminations. And the second part of that is a pro-growth strategy, associated with tax policies that encourage economic growth.”
Romney acknowledges that his tax proposal is not identical to Ryan’s budget, but he argues that the thrust of the two documents is the same. “My policy, of course, is a little different,” Romney says. “He’s gone to the 25–10 approach,” eliminating tax brackets. “I prefer taking a 20 percent tax cut across the board on marginal rates and also eliminating the [alternative minimum tax] and the death tax. So we are similar, not identical, and we chat on a regular basis.”
Ryan has not endorsed Romney, but it’s obvious they have worked closely and successfully. This once again raises the possibility that Ryan might be a logical pick for VP.
In an odd way, having not endorsed Romney, Ryan’s agreement to run with him would have the added aura of unifying the party — between Romney backers and the base, who considers Ryan to be a star. Ryan has certainly proven he can articulate the Republicans’ economic message and take on the president’s. Ryan has been in Congress, but he has swum against the tide in proposing bold, comprehensive reforms that previous Republican leadership resisted. His deviations from conservative orthodoxy (e.g. support for TARP) actually match Romney’s. He is also young, attractive and the type of Republican who can appeal to swing voters and Democrats. (Ryan points out that his district has consistently voted Democrat for president.)
Ryan, unlike Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is not likely to upstage the top of the ticket (both because he is disciplined and more a policy than a personality figure in the party). He will nevertheless excite many in the base.
But what about Ryan’s Medicare reform? Won’t the Democrats’ eyes brighten at the prospect of running their Mediscare campaign? Well, Romney’s Medicare plan is virtually identical to Ryan’s so there’ll be no running from it.
Ryan, as I have argued before, amplifies Romney’s appeal: competent, wonky, organized and not hyper-partisan. But he also brings something to the table — conservative street cred. So if Ryan and Romney have gotten along as well as Romney indicated, isn’t he among the top VP contenders?