The elevation of Obamacare — and related topics of entitlement and tax policy — to the foreground of the presidential debate may change the vice-presidential calculus. Two contenders, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), now are well positioned to help carry the fight on the nexus of issues — Obamacare, entitlement reform and the clash between the opportunity and dependency visions of the presidential nominees.
Ryan, of course, has had his own comprehensive reform plans on entitlements since 2007 and will soon be in the thick of the effort to unmask the true costs and tax burden associated with Obamacare post-Roberts. He is both articulate and knowledgable on these subjects, and has show his rhetorical chops in facing off against the president on budgets.
Moreover, his own Medicare premium support plan has gained new respect and now serves as the “obvious” reform formula among centrists and conservatives. (David Brooks, former Obama BFF, writes: “Personally, I think the Republicans’ defined-contribution approach is compelling. It’s a potentially effective way to expand coverage while aligning incentives so that people make cost-conscious, responsible decisions.”)
It is also easy to see why Jindal is getting some buzz. In a press conference call this morning along with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), Jindal showed how effective he is on these issues. As McDonnell acknowledged, Jindal is one of the “foremost” champions of smart health-care reform in both inside the Beltway and in his own state. He also demonstrated today how effective and sharp-witted he is in presenting Mitt Romney’s message. He clearly had the Romney themes down pat. Obamacare, he told the reporters, was something the “American people didn’t want and didn’t like.” He seized on the court’s ruling, saying it was more “honest” than Obama in telling us this is a giant tax-and-spend measure, and Jindal skewered Obama for telling voters in 2008, Congress and the public he wasn’t imposing a “tax.” And he hit the big-picture themes as well. Obamacare, Jindal said, raises the issue whether we will have “more people riding in the cart than pulling it” in an Obama government-dependency society. He also has engaged the Obamacare battle with the president, refusing to set up the exchange in his state or to accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion. (He socked it to Obama for refusing to give governors flexibility in Medicaid reform.)
Both of these VP possibilities are whip smart, expert on the critical issues and personally engaging. Romney, I have no doubt, could aid his cause by putting either one of them on the ticket. We’ll see soon enough if he agrees.