The first thing I think worth saying about the Ryan pick is that it shows Romney has not given up. While the vice-presidential candidate in the end doesn’t make a lot of difference, it shows that Romney isn’t afraid to pick someone who is young and vital. Imagine if Romney had gone with a color-of-water pick such as former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) whose impressive record in office was undercut by his Minnesota Nice exterior.

Commentators will line up quickly to praise or damn the Ryan selection, but it strikes me operationally as a smart choice, especially if Ryan plays the traditional attack-dog role that vice-presidential candidates are supposed to. He is in a good, knowledgeable position to rebut claims that capitalism is always at fault. Then again, from a small-government libertarian perspective, he voted for Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, TARP, auto bailouts, and all the wars waged by George W. Bush. So even as he makes the 2012 election race more interesting and hotly contested, he underscores the fact that today’s GOP is offering an echo of the Democratic Party, not a real alternative.