As I watched his CPAC speech last week, I was struck by what a narrow, green-eyeshade approach he took. While Ryan kept saying he wanted to improve people’s lives, he was cranking out the same doomsday rhetoric about how the Obama administration’s spending would lead to skyrocketing interest rates, government printing presses cranking out money, a plummeting dollar, an unraveling economy, and a shredded safety net. It was a joyless speech that ignored the advent of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts and the president’s push for a grander bargain on spending and taxes.

Ryan had always enjoyed a reputation inside the Beltway as a wonky truth teller, one of the GOP’s intellectual leaders. But now, writes The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber, “he’s made it hard for political reporters to take him seriously.”

The process began during the campaign, when the VP nominee repeatedly attacked the administration for raiding $716 billion from Medicare when his own budget had done the same thing (but applied the savings differently). Ryan made other misleading statements, such as in the convention speech when he faulted Obama over the shutdown of a GM plant in his hometown of Janesville—which, as it turned out, closed before Obama became president. Rather than emerging as a full-fledged personality, he did few national interviews and seemed muzzled by the Romney team.