For the better part of the last two months — and for some of us far longer than that — the Republican vice presidential sweepstakes has dominated the thought of any political junkie worth his or her name.
Now that we know the identity of Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick — it’s Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, in case you have been in a news blackout since Friday night — the last major piece of the 2012 presidential puzzle has been fit into place.
Given the high stakes of the veepstakes, now that it’s over we thought it would be worth sorting through the entrails to come up with some winners and, of course, some losers from the process that was.
Our picks are after the jump. Have some winners/losers of your own? The comments section awaits.
* Paul Ryan: Well, duh. Ryan went from being a well regarded House member to internationally known — not unlike Rob Base — within 24 hours. If the Republican ticket wins, Ryan is not only VP but also at the front of the line for president in his own right in four or eight years. And, if the Republican ticket loses? Assuming Ryan acquits himself moderately well, he’s probably at the front of those same lines anyway.
* Conservative elites: In an election cycle where the George Wills and Bill Kristols of the world haven’t gotten much of what they wanted out of the Republican presidential field, they won a big victory with the selection of Ryan. Ryan became the “it” boy of the conservative smart set for his willingness to get specific on what a Republican budget — and plan for the country — might look like. As it became clear he had made it onto Romney’s shortest list, the conservative punditry kicked into high gearing — painting it as a once-in-a-lifetime sort of pick not just for Romney but for the conservative movement more generally. They got their man.
* Wisconsin: The Badger State now can lay claim to the Republican vice presidential nominee, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and the most famous governor in the country. Not bad for a state that the Republican presidential nominee hasn’t carried since 1984. If the 1990s and earlier 2000s saw a Republican Party controlled by men from Texas — George W. Bush, Tom DeLay, Dick Armey — then this decade’s Texas certainly looks like Wisconsin.
* Policy: For those people who decry the lack of a serious debate over the future of the country, you won big with the Ryan pick. Anyone who knows the Republican vice presidential nominee knows that his first love is the sort of numbers geekery that will make policy wonks’ hearts go pitter patter.
* Chuck Todd: The NBC News political director and owner of the most famous goatee in Washington broke the Ryan VP pick at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and, in so doing, carved his name into political journalism history.
* Congressional Democrats: Efforts to nationalize the fall election weren’t going so well for Democrats with most political handicappers predicting small-scale gains for their side. By putting Ryan on the ticket, Romney has handed House and Senate Democrats a golden opportunity to make downballot races a referendum on his budget proposal. And, they have some evidence that strategy can pay dividends in swing seats; this spring Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) won an Upstate New York swing district running primarily on her opposition to the Ryan plan.
* Chemistry:We’ve long believed that one of the most underestimated factors in who winds up as the vice presidential pick is chemistry. That is, does the presidential nominee like and trust the person he is elevating to the national ticket? Can he imagine serving with him day in and day out for four or eight years? It was widely reported that Romney and Ryan had great chemistry when they campaign together earlier this year and that the former Massachusetts governor genuinely liked the Wisconsin Republican.
* The Weekly Standard: The conservative news mag — and writer Stephen Hayes in particular — seemed to have a direct line into Ryan’s world from the get go and led the way on the VP chatter surrounding the Wisconsin Republican Congressman for weeks.
* Tim Pawlenty: We wrote on Friday that Tpaw was starting to give off an “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” sort of vibe, and Romney’s decision to pick Ryan affirms it. Pawlenty has now been shortlisted twice and picked neither time — a political reality that virtually guarantees that his life on the national political stage (as a candidate at least) is likely over. Pawlenty reminds us of former Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh who was twice short-listed for VP and even considered a presidential run of his own before backing off. Both men came close to the pinnacle of their profession but couldn’t get over the top.
* “Safe” picks: The last two Republican vice presidential nominees have been risks — albeit it in two very different ways. (The nomination of Sarah Palin was John McCain’s attempt to shake up a race that his campaign simply didn’t think he could win. The Ryan pick is an attempt by Romney to show boldness and vision in a race he and his side very much think they can win.) That doesn’t paint an encouraging picture for the so-called “safe” picks like Pawlenty and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman in 2016, 2020 and beyond. When it comes to picking a VP, fortune may well favor the bold.
* The Fix’s beauty rest: The Ryan news broke at midnight. We were up by 4 am writing. ‘Nuff said.