Despite the plethora of current and former governors seeking or thinking about seeking the Republican presidential nomination, two prominent Republican governors have heralded a possible presidential run by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have both in effect endorsed him. Back in May South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley defended him against the attack on his Medicare reform plan launched by Newt Gingrich:
“What he said was absolutely unfortunate,” Haley told CNN in a phone interview. “Here you’ve got Representative Ryan trying to bring common sense to this world of insanity, and Newt absolutely cut him off at the knees.”
“When you have a conservative fighting for real change, the last thing we need is a presidential candidate cutting him off at the knees,” she added. . . .
Asked if presidential hopefuls should back the Ryan budget plan in its entirety, Haley answered: “What I can tell you is, the people of South Carolina support Representative Ryan. The people of South Carolina support conservatives who are trying to push real change, and the people of South Carolina expect their presidential candidates to back them up when they show courage.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was effusive in his praise yesterday. He signaled that Ryan would be his first choice. “Paul Ryan is one of the most courageous people I know. And in this day and age we need more than anything we need leaders of courage. We need more people who care about the next generation than they do about the next election and that’s exactly what you’d get out of Paul Ryan.”
There are several explanations for why governors in particular seem to be so eager to get Ryan into the race. For one thing, each of these figures is a problem-solver and innovator who knows that bromides aren’t sufficient. Ryan is the only Republican or Democrat to have laid out specific proposals on the issues that matter most. Moreover, governors understand the need for conservatives both in campaigns and once elected to figure out how to explain their policies in practical terms. You can’t get to be governor or govern successfully simply by playing to the base.
It is far from certain that Ryan will get into the race. But there is evidently significant concern among noteworthy conservatives that none of the present contenders have the complete package. Ryan needs no learning curve on the federal budget or entitlements; has engaged Obama personally; has articulated (in his response to the State of the Union address) a complete conservative vision; is equally appreciated by hawks, social conservatives and fiscal conservatives; and presents the image a a dynamic and thoughtful Republican Party.
Maybe others have these qualities as well, but those who don’t understand what all the buzz is about should take time to go back and watch or read the transcripts of his debate with Obama at the health-care summit, his SOTU response, his debate with David Brooks at the American Enterprise Institute, his response to Obama’s GMU tirade on the budget and his speech at the Alexander Hamilton Society. Then, they might understand why enthusiasm runs high for him among the best and the brightest in the GOP. Is there a single candidate who could have done all that, plus constructed a budget, devised a tax reform scheme and presented a Medicare reform plan? Republicans better hope there is, be it Ryan or someone equally impressive. Otherwise, as scary as the economy is and as devoid of ideas as the president is, he may get himself reelected simply by pointing at the other guy and saying, “Do you really think this is presidential material?”