It was clear by the president’s outrageous speech yesterday that Barack Obama thinks he has something either to gain or to fear — electorally speaking — from the Paul Ryan budget plan. From now until November, the Paul Ryan plan will not become law. The president has no reason to attack it right now unless he thinks the plan affects his electoral chances.
Perhaps the president thinks that Americans — if they allow themselves to learn the specifics — will embrace the cogent, forward-thinking plan and that Ryan’s blueprint will actually boost the GOP’s chances in an election that will determine, for better or worse, the fiscal future of the nation. Perhaps the president simply thinks attacks on the plan will distract the electorate from his many failures. I’m inclined to think it’s the latter, but a case can be made that it’s the former.
Paul Ryan has truth on his side: Entitlement programs are the key drivers of our deficit and debt and they’ll implode if we take no steps to reform them. The president has to work overtime to ensure that that truth doesn’t get out. If it does, Americans will clamor to know what the president’s entitlement reform plan is — and he’ll be forced to admit he doesn’t have one. His vision for the future of the country is the expansion of the entitlement state, not its reform. Unfortunately, that vision is unsustainable.
Romney’s confident embrace of the Ryan plan suggests that Romney thinks the Ryan budget will be a boon, not a burden to his presidential campaign. If Obama’s plan is to attack the Ryan plan to reelection and Romney’s plan is to ride the Ryan plan to victory, then doesn’t it stand to reason that Ryan should be on the GOP ticket? That’s what more and more conservatives and liberals alike seem to be thinking.
Here’s The Washington Examiner’s Charlie Spiering, for example:
Paul Ryan took the stage last night in Wisconsin to introduce Mitt Romney and thank supporters ahead of his victory speech. Conservatives reacted favorably, sparking speculation that the speech was a trial balloon for Ryan as a Vice President candidate for Romney.
Ryan challenged Obama for his “broken promises” reminding voters that he would try to divide Americans because he could not run on his record.
“I seem to remember him saying that he was going to be a uniter, not a divider,” Ryan said. “Frankly this is one and the worst of his broken promises. We do not need a campaigner-in-chief, we need a commander-in-chief we need a leader that America deserves.”
And The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza:
It’s not hard to imagine this thought in Romney headquarters this morning: You want to make the Ryan plan the centerpiece of this campaign? Fine. Game on. That’s a fight we want.
If you believe — and you should — that the dominant issue of this campaign is over which party has the best plan to put the country on sound financial footing then there’s no better way for Romney to drive a contrast with Obama than to put the face of the conservative approach to budgeting on the national ticket. (It doesn’t hurt that Ryan is telegenic, beloved by tea party conservatives and from a swing state like Wisconsin.)
Obviously we are still very early in the veepstakes. And, speculation about Ryan — or anyone else — is just that: speculation. But, it’s clear that Ryan’s stock has soared in recent days. And he’s got President Obama to thank for it.
Cillizza is right: This is a fight Romney should want because it’s a fight Romney could actually win. Who better to help him wage it than Paul Ryan himself?
Update (Allahpundit): Via Spiering, here’s video of Ryan’s speech.