Why Ryan should run

4. Ryan offers the ideal combination of conservative substance and moderate style. I’ve argued for years that the perfect formula for a unifying GOP nominee isn’t to split the difference between the so-called moderate and conservative wings of the party, or between the establishment and the Tea Party. Today’s Republicans remain a party of unequivocally conservative principles (as evidenced by near-unanimous GOP congressional votes against all elements of the Obama big-government agenda). Most Republicans, however (like most of their Democratic and independent neighbors), prefer a moderate, nonthreatening style to the explosive personality of some rhetorical bomb-thrower. Reagan exemplified the necessary blend to perfection: his clear-cut, unwavering conservative values won wide acceptance because they matched a sunny, agreeable, easygoing disposition. Mike Huckabee captured some of the same magic with his classic formulation: “I’m a conservative, but I’m not angry about it.” George W. Bush succeeded with a similar presentation, positioning himself in 2000 as a rock-ribbed religious right-winger who nonetheless respected the other side as a nice-guy “compassionate conservative” and a “uniter, not a divider.” The least-effective Republican nominees get the formulation exactly backwards: Bob Dole and John McCain, both admirable war heroes with impressive Senate records, worried righties (with their imperfect conservative credentials) and everyone else (with an edgy, occasionally angry and explosive, personal style). This year both Perry and Bachmann offer plenty of conservative substance, but without the reassuring moderate style; Romney provides the suave, comforting moderate style, but his Massachusetts record leaves Tea Party partisans uncertain of his conservative substance. Among this candidate crop, Ryan alone (with Pawlenty and Mitch Daniels out of the race) could provide the right formula in terms of both tough solid principle and agreeable personality.

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