Right Turn spoke with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) after the big news of the morning. As we anticipated last night, Ryan endorsed Mitt Romney this morning:
Ryan said he would join Romney later today for a fish fry in Milwaukee and a town hall in Ryan’s district. This is a huge boost for Romney going into Tuesday’s primary.
Beyond Wisconsin, Ryan’s nod of approval may be the most significant endorsement and the most effective in moving the party from the primary to the general election. Ryan’s credibility with the base is second to none. As one pol put it to a Wisconsin crowd: “You have spoken loudly with another Wisconsinite, Paul Ryan, and his boldness. And now it’s time for Wisconsin to do what I did the other day in Sheboygan. Not just bowl one strike, not just bowl two strikes, but to bowl three strikes in a row and knock Obama out of the game.”
That pol would be Rick Santorum. (Santorum previously told Glenn Beck that Ryan has “put forward a great blueprint for people to campaign upon and shows clearly progress, dramatic progress, in the direction of shrinking the size of government and liberating the economy through lower taxes and less regulations.” That budget, by the way, is remarkably similar to Romney’s tax, spending and entitlement reforms.)
This was quite a week for Ryan. He joked, “Yeah, just another day at the office, punching the clock.” In fact, we saw three days of spectacular argument at the Supreme Court on Obamacare and limited government, House passage of the Ryan budget and then the Romney endorsement. I asked if he saw a connection. “Yes, I think this whole thing is coming to a crescendo,” he responding, saying that we are “finally having the debate” we need to have. Ryan contends that the choice is stark: “Do we believe in a system of limited government, of economic freedom . . . or are we ready to retire that for a cradle-to-grave social-welfare state like Western Europe?”
“The purpose of the budget,” Ryan told me, “is to get the Republican Party [to be] the party of reform.” Then, he says, the election can be an ”affirming one,” at the end of which, “Republicans will have the right and the responsibility” to go about recapturing the American dream and reestablishing limited government.
His Path to Prosperity plan was a long time in coming. He recalled, ”I started this project in 207 with seven co-sponsors.” He laughed: “The next year we had 14!” Now the House has passed that plan in consecutive years.
Ryan then revealed the extent to which he has collaborated with Romney: “The reason I’m supporting Romney is that I’ve spent a lot of time with Mitt and his staff. I think he gets it.” He says that, during the primary process, Romney came to appreciate fully the importance of reestablishing limited government and making the election a choice between two visions. “I think he understands, and the primary made him a better candidate.”
That said, he was emphatic that the primary needs to wrap up. “I thought long primaries were a good thing. But I’ve finished up at the [RNC Presidential] Trust,” fundraising for the coming campaign. Now, he said, “I appreciate the enormity of [running a presidential campaign].” He said of an elongated primary: “It would be counterproductive,” then later came back to the topic to add, “The brokered convention thing is bunk. It would be a fiasco,” considering the work the Republican National Committee and activists need to do to win the general election.
He said his criteria is simple: “Who is the best person, and who has the best chance? Romney wins on both.”
Our conversation then turned to health care. A lot of conservatives are now optimistic that the Supreme Court will throw out the entire law. “I’m not a lawyer,” Ryan told me, ”but people who are and who I respect agree with that.” He also contends it is important for conservatives to move forward on an alternative health-care scheme. He points to a recent piece by James Capretta and Robert Moffit on how to replace Obamacare. Ryan previously has introduced a health-care bill with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and others that aim to create a national health-care market and increase patient control of their own health care.
Ryan stressed, “We can get to a market-based, patient-centered [plan] where we bring free-market principles” to help control costs, improve care and reduce the debt. He calls this a “virtuous cycle” in which consumers control their purchasing power, competition works to reduce cost and improve care, and the government, rather than driving up health-care costs, reaps the benefits of cost-containment. “A lot of people don’t understand how crucial health care is” to controlling the budget. The reason, he contends, that the Simpson-Bowles plan got only 38 votes in the House is because it left Obamacare intact.
Obviously, Republicans need a presidential ticket that can explain health care. Ryan recalled that Sen John McCain (R-Ariz.) put out a good plan. “He didn’t know how to defend it.” He then hesitated, not wanting to ding his colleague, before adding, “It just wasn’t his top issue.”
Ryan comes back to the topic of leadership. He is merciless regarding Obama’s failure to address our fiscal woes. “He has shown dereliction of duty on the biggest threat to our country. So he’s dividing the country to distract from” his failure. Ryan is convinced the country wants more. ”People are ready for serious discussion. They are ready to be talked to adults and not pandered to as children.” He added, “And Mitt Romney gets this.”
He thinks the consensus is there to move forward with Romney as head of the ticket. “We have a conservative House. We are on the verge of a conservative Senate. With Mitt Romney we’ll have a conservative in the White House. With Romney . . . a Senate with Ron Johnson and Marco Rubio. . . . Well, that brings a smile to my face.” With Ryan as VP, conservatives might be downright giddy.