Paul Ryan’s rapidly-improving vice presidential prospects

at 12:46 PM ET, 04/04/2012

When we did our inaugural rankings of the ten men and women most likely to wind up as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate this fall, we had Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan ranked 10th.


House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. introduces Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney before Romney spoke at the Grain Exchange in Milwaukee, Tuesday, April 3, 2012. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Within seconds, we received a slew of emails, Tweets and Facebook messages from people — political professionals and not — insisting that Ryan was ranked far too low.

Events over the last few days — in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. — have convinced us that we we were wrong. (This is not an uncommon occurrence.)

The obvious reason for Ryan’s rise in the veepstakes is his week spent campaigning with Romney in Wisconsin following an endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor last Friday.

Wrote the Post’s Phil Rucker, who has been with Romney throughout the campaign:

“Since Ryan endorsed Romney last Friday, he was at the candidate’s side at every turn — introducing him before formal speeches, vouching for him at town hall meetings and joining him as they eyed cherry pie, picked up fried cheese curds and handed out sub sandwiches. (Romney gave away turkey; Ryan, ham and cheese.)”

It did not go unnoticed — at least by the Fix — that Ryan was also chosen to introduce Romney on Tuesday night as the former governor celebrated his victory Wisconsin primary victory in Milwaukee. (Does this guy know how to party or what?)

And, Ryan’s introduction featured just the sort of attack-dog rhetoric against President Obama that the vice presidential nominee will be called on to offer up throughout the fall campaign. Ryan’s best zinger on Obama? “He is going to try to divide us to distract us,” the Wisconsin Republican thundered from the podium.

While it’s clear that Ryan’s stint on the stump amounted to a sort of vice presidential tryout, it’s actually something that President Obama said in a speech on Tuesday in Washington that convinced us that Ryan deserved to be in the top-tier of the veepstakes.

In what was a defining speech of his 2012 reelection campaign, Obama repeatedly called out Ryan and Republicans for their “laughable” approach to deficit reduction, describing the budget plan put forward by the Wisconsin Republican as a “Trojan horse”. Added Obama: “Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.”

Them’s fighting words. And, they make clear that a major part of Obama’s strategy heading toward November is to make Ryan — and the budget plans he has proposed in each of the last two years — famous or, more accurately, infamous. (Make sure to read Ezra Klein’s smart piece on Obama’s efforts to elevate Ryan.)

Knowing now that Obama is going to go all-out on the Ryan plan, it makes an increasing amount of sense for Romney to not only fully embrace the plan (as he has done) but to fully embrace the man too.

It’s not hard to imagine this thought in Romney headquarters this morning: You want to make the Ryan plan the centerpiece of this campaign? Fine. Game on. That’s a fight we want.

If you believe — and you should — that the dominant issue of this campaign is over which party has the best plan to put the country on sound financial footing then there’s no better way for Romney to drive a contrast with Obama than to put the face of the conservative approach to budgeting on the national ticket. (It doesn’t hurt that Ryan is telegenic, beloved by tea party conservatives and from a swing state like Wisconsin.)

Obviously we are still very early in the veepstakes. And, speculation about Ryan — or anyone else — is just that: speculation. But, it’s clear that Ryan’s stock has soared in recent days. And he’s got President Obama to thank for it.

 
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