“In over two decades of service in the Senate, Herb Kohl has done much to help the great state of Wisconsin and the lives of its residents. While Senator Kohl and I have had our policy disagreements in the past, he has always had my respect. It has been a privilege to work with him over the years, and I wish him the best in his future endeavors. I was surprised by Senator Kohl’s announcement and want to take some time over the next few days to discuss this news with my family and supporters before making any decision about how I’m best able to serve my employers in the First Congressional District, our state and nation.”
Two thoughts. One: If he does this, he’s off the VP list. I keep seeing him turn up in the blogosphere on 2012 “dream tickets,” usually with Christie or Daniels or some other dyed-in-the-wool fiscal con, but it would be absurd to draft him for the vice presidential slot while he’s busy running for his first Senate seat. The perception would be that he’s so personally ambitious that he almost doesn’t care what he runs for — first Kohl’s seat, and then for VP once the position was offered. (It’s less of an issue for incumbents like Joe Lieberman who run to keep the seat they already have.) That’s bad for the ticket and very bad for Ryan, who’d be in political limbo if the ticket lost next year. And two: Ryan campaigning for Senate at ground zero of the left’s big labor backlash would be the ultimate test of how far voters are willing to bend on entitlements. The GOP primary would almost certainly be contested and then the general election would be brutal, with Ryan painted for months as the Grim Reaper eager to see grandma and grandpa culled by the fiscal scythe. I’ll bet there’s pressure on him from Republican leaders even now not to run, that the party has more electable candidates and that having the architect of the “Path to Prosperity” gunning for a high-profile seat in the Senate could hurt the GOP’s national chances next year. There’s a reason, after all, why even tea partiers like DeMint and Rubio are lining up to co-sponsor Pat Toomey’s far less aggressive alternative budget to Ryan’s.
Exit question: How many Republican votes will Ryan’s budget get if/when it comes to the floor in the Senate? The fewer it gets, the stronger the Democrats’ “too radical for his own party!” anti-Ryan talking points will be in Wisconsin.