It’s not clear Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wants to run for president. However, if former Florida governor Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie don’t run or don’t seem viable if they do, the pressure on Ryan from reform-minded moderate and conservative Republicans, as well as big donors, will be intense. He would have the advantage of being able to start late, perhaps early fall of 2015 and still do well in early primary states where he is well-known. If he does run, he’ll have to convince voters he’s the guy who has been trying to fix what is wrong in Washington and the solution to the unserious, feckless Obama presidency. That will mean:
1. Running as the champion of opportunity, a theme he’s already been working on.
2. Stifling his wonky budget analysis both to guide the discussion to growth and opportunity and to connect with ordinary voters who care much less about debt than about jobs.
3. Reforming entitlements is not a penny-pinching exercise but a means to an end — better health care for the poor and a sustainable, quality Medicare plan for the elderly.
4. Contrasting the records of freshmen GOP Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) who’ve been part of the dysfunction problem in Washington with his own labors to achieve constructive policy goals.
5. Convincing voters he is knowledgeable and has solid instincts when it comes to national security. He and Mitt Romney, after all, had it right on multiple fronts in the 2012 campaign. It really would be the “We told you so” campaign.
6. Highlighting his roots in Janesville, Wis. Bill Clinton, the man from Hope, Ark., was expert at bonding with ordinary voters. Ryan would have to do the same, revealing more of his life story and making a more visceral connection with his audiences.
7. Preventing a vivid contrast between the future and past, tired partisanship and smart leadership. The contrast in appearance, vigor and creativity with Hillary Clinton, and even some of the GOP contenders, is remarkable.
8. Tapping into voters’ desire for something better. Although he was entirely incapable of following through, Obama’s message of change, potential and optimism was alluring, and conservatives shouldn’t denigrate it. Talking about our ability to rise above problems is essential; no one wants to vote for a pessimist. That message is near and dear to Ryan and could earnestly convey his confidence in better days ahead.
9. Making the campaign about something other than celebrity. He’s never been comfortable with the focus on personality in politics and has always striven to master and gather support for policy reforms. After eight years of Obama and decades of the Clinton soap opera, the smart, humble candidate who doesn’t rely on a cult of personality may be refreshing.
10. Doing some international traveling on his own so voters get the image of him in a lead role on the world stage.