[W]hen will they know? And when will the rest of us know? There’s a school of thought in the extended Romney camp that the identity of the pick will dictate the timing of the announcement. A choice that is more exciting to the Republican base, and to the GOP convention delegates, can be announced late, even at the convention itself, because it will instantly excite Republican loyalists. No need for an extended sales campaign. But a pick that is less exciting to the base might be announced earlier, to give Romney time to build support for his choice.
“If he picks Rubio, he could do that the day before the convention, and it would electrify the convention and be exciting,” says one source who is familiar with the campaign but not part of the vice presidential process. “[The delegates] want Rubio, or maybe Christie, or perhaps Paul Ryan. But if he chooses Portman or Pawlenty, he should do it enough in advance so that he doesn’t immediately go in and disappoint the convention. It gives him time to sell his choice.”
“[Ryan] is the kind of smart, young guy that Mitt likes and Mitt would have probably hired at Bain,” says Mike Murphy, a former Romney adviser. “He shares the intellectual talent and positive outlook of the guys who Mitt mentored for decades.”…
According to Romney insiders, Romney deeply appreciated Ryan’s willingness to privately share his critique of the campaign during the heated Republican primary, where Romney often struggled to make his case. As he watched from afar, long before he endorsed, Ryan drafted a series of detailed strategy and policy advisories, and discussed them with Romney over the phone. For Romney, those corporate-style memos made a lasting impression — and catapulted Ryan into Romney’s circle, where he has remained since.
“Both men are intelligent and very empirically minded, driven by facts,” says Peter Wehner, a friend of Ryan’s and a former Bush and Reagan administration official. “When he looks at Ryan, Romney probably sees somebody like himself, a person he’d want at his side in the business world or the political world. They approach complicated problems the same way.”
The case against Ryan, 42, is that he is a lightning rod for criticism of the unpopular cuts in government health programs for the elderly and poor he proposed as chairman of the powerful House of Representatives Budget Committee
That is not a weakness, the conservatives argued, but a strength. They want Ryan’s budget to be the issue and they want Ryan there to defend it.
Such a debate, they believe, could elevate the campaign beyond questions that are consuming it now, about Romney’s unwillingness to disclose more than two years of tax returns for example, or his leadership of the investment firm, Bain Capital…
“It turns the election into an all-in bet,” the aide said, adding, “The concern is that when you go all in, you can lose and be out of the game.”
The question, it seems to us, is not whether Republicans and their presidential nominee own the Ryan budget, but how they choose to talk about it. Republicans shouldn’t worry about having entitlement reform as part of the campaign debate; they should want it there. The 2012 campaign should be about leadership, and about the failure of Barack Obama to provide it on the big issues, including – especially – on entitlement reform, debt, and deficits. It’s no longer the case that talking about entitlements is fatal. Marco Rubio ran on entitlement reform and won decisively … in senior-rich Florida. The more Rubio talked about entitlement reform, in fact, the better he did, according the campaign’s internal tracking polls. Congressional Republicans voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Ryan budget twice and yet they are effectively tied with congressional Democrats on the generic ballot question…
So Romney, and Republicans, will be running on the Romney-Ryan plan no matter what. Having Paul Ryan on the ticket may well make it easier to defend the plan convincingly. Ryan’s pretty good at that.
— Byron York (@ByronYork) August 9, 2012
[T]he loud, public calls for Mr. Ryan to emerge as the winner demonstrate again the wariness with which conservatives have always treated Mr. Romney. They suggest that there remains a desire among some conservatives for Mr. Romney to demonstrate that he is, in fact, one of them…
[T]he conservatives are also looking past the November election to the kind of White House they want should Mr. Romney win. For some conservatives — especially those who identify themselves with the Tea Party movement — winning is not enough.
For some of those conservatives, a Romney administration stocked with moderate Republicans is almost as bad as a second term for Mr. Obama.
The clamor you are hearing for Paul Ryan for VP is not about helping the Romney candidacy. It’s about controlling the Romney campaign — and ultimately the Romney presidency. It’s about forcing a platform on Romney, and then dictating the agenda for that presidency’s first year. The platform happens to be suicidal, and the agenda impossible, but that does not matter to the Ryan advocates. They take the old Tammany Hall point of view: “Better to lose an agenda than lose control of the party.”
In that sense, the Ryan proposal is a test of Romney’s leadership. If he accedes, it’s a big surrender of control — and a surrender to many of those who most opposed (and who inwardly continue to dislike) his nomination.
But the smaller, more Machiavellian point is that Ryan is Romney’s best chance to diffuse the blame if he loses this election. If Romney chooses the proverbial “incredibly boring white guy” and then goes down in November, conservatives will place the blame squarely on Romney’s shoulders: He was a flip-flopping, Massachusetts Moderate with a cautious campaign and a car garage. The narrative, in fact, is already set. In July, the Wall Street Journal editorial page accused Romney of “slowly squandering an historic opportunity.” They would simply have to change “squandering” to “squandered.” And Romney knows it.
But if Romney chooses Ryan — if he makes this the “big election over big issues” that the Wall Street Journal editorial page wants — then his loss will be their loss as well. He’ll still be blamed, of course. But the fact will remain that he took conservative counsel, adopted conservative ideas, named a conservative hero as his vice president, ran on the Ryan budget, and lost to a liberal. The right will not be able to pretend they weren’t on the ticket. They will have chosen the ticket. The right will not be able to say Romney ran a cautious campaign. They will have cranked his campaign’s strategy up to 11.
What’s less clear is what conservatives get out of the deal, save the opportunity to see Ryan debate Joe Biden. If Ryan is named to the ticket and the ticket loses, the loss will discredit the Ryan budget, and empower those in the Republican Party who want to pivot back to the center. Whereas conservatives have some chance of winning the intraparty argument if Romney/Portman loses — “we shouldn’t have nominated the insincere moderate,” they’ll say — they have little chance of arguing that the Republican Party simply didn’t run hard enough on the Ryan budget if Romney/Ryan loses.