Ernest Istook: Romney’s VP Choice Has ‘Wow’ Factor

Saturday, 11 Aug 2012 10:45 AM

By Ernest Istook

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Ernest Istook's Perspective: Wow!

I didn't think it could happen.

Paul Ryan is principled, sharp as they come, well-spoken, telegenic, youthful, and married to an Oklahoma girl. What more could you ask?

The Obama smear machine's effort to dump on Paul will instantly be seen as a repeat of the "dump granny over the cliff ad," namely taking things too far.

This is a bold and excellent move by Romney.

A big key had to be the willingness of Paul's wife, Janna, to accept this while raising their handful of small children. To me, this always seemed the biggest barrier to having him on the short list because Paul truly is a devoted father.

The second barrier was the allure of chasing after Ohio via the "safe" pick of Portman. It is nice to see Romney going bold rather than safe.

The campaign will be wise to put Ryan out front constantly. His youth combats Obama's, and all the more effectively because Ryan is a genuine reformer, not a radical masquerading as a reformer.

Ryan will also remember the occasion when Obama invited him to be front-row for a supposed major budget proposal, then used him as a foil and prop for TV while Paul could only sit and fume. That stoked his inner fire and will be a constant motivation that maintains his passion on the campaign trail.

Some will equate this with picking Sarah Palin as an example of boldness, appealing to the base, telegenics, etc. But Ryan brings a greater level of depth, knowledge, and even political craftiness than Palin. As budget chairman he has been exposed to plenty of tricks and games and knows how to deal with them.

He has shrewdness in abundance; he can spot traps and not only evade them but turn them around on the source.

Back to Ohio for a second, this choice has got to excite Gov. Kasich. As one who formerly had Ryan's budget chair seat, he can appreciate how Ryan has used it as a fulcrum for boldness just as Kasich did (even though Ryan obviously had to make compromises required by the other GOP members, as did Kasich). The compromises made within Ryan's budget proposals must be understood in this light. Ryan's heart is definitely in the right place.

Not only is Wisconsin brought into play by this, but it strengthens the effort in the entire Rust Belt and Midwest. Unlike a choice from a redder state, Ryan throughout his career has had to deal with the panoply of job loss, outsourcing, manufacturing, and related issues that are so all-important in that region.

Finally, as a reliable social conservative, Ryan obviously shores up that base, especially since Obama’s pushes on mandatory contraception and same-sex marriage have alienated so many of Ryan's fellow Catholics.

But what is a true difference-maker is that Paul is an ARTICULATE social conservative as well as a committed one. He won't apologize or mince words in that category.

The challenge for Ryan on the campaign trail will be to avoid wonkishness. With the arcane nature of his budget work and his natural intellectual approach to that work, he will have to work and practice to reduce concepts down to simpler terms for the general public. But he has the inherent self-discipline that makes it possible for him to refine his words as he must.

The VP debate with Biden will be something to behold. Ryan should not hold back there.

Now if we could just re-create another Ryan vs. Obama encounter . . .

Former Congressman Ernest Istook chaired the House subcommittee that handled funding for transportation nationwide. Now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation, he will host the “Istook Live!” daily talk radio show that will soon launch in syndication. Read more reports from Ernest Istook — Click Here Now.

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