Veepstakes over. And the winner is...

Ed was pretty sure he had it last night. NBC was already calling it before many of us woke up this morning. But now it’s official. The Mitt’s VP smartphone app went off at 7:05 AM, announcing that Paul Ryan will be the other half of “America’s Comeback Team.”

The actual announcement, scheduled to take place in front of the USS Wisconsin, won’t happen for another hour or so yet. (We’ll update after it does.)

This pick has already been examined to death in theory and now it can be road tested in reality. There are some pluses and minuses to this choice, which we’ll get to in a minute, but I can’t help but be struck by the “why” behind this call. As I said in a couple of interviews over the last few weeks, I believed – like many others – that Romney was facing a fairly basic, “bold or safe” choice. If Mitt felt like he was already on a fairly clear glide path to victory, we’d get the safe choice… either Portman or T-Paw. But if the disturbing poll numbers continued, he might feel the need to shake things up. Dare I say… a “game changer?” No need. Guy Benson already did.

Any way you slice it, this is a game-changer. As I wrote earlier this week, Paul Ryan is one of the sunniest, most likeable conservatives on the scene today. He’s also the party’s top wonk and is completely fluent in fiscal issues. I predict that Democrats will publicly gloat over this pick (“he’ll be so easy to demonize!”), even as they privately worry. Paul Ryan is earnest, smart, articulate, attractive, calm, good-humored, and exceptionally gifted in explaining his case in persuasive and unthreatening terms. He’s from the Midwest, has blue collar appeal (unlike Romney, he did not grow up wealthy), and has a beautiful young family. The Left will launch vicious and totally dishonest attacks, as they have throughout the last two years of budget debates. But never before has Paul Ryan enjoyed a larger platform from which to make his case to the American public: The country is going broke, a fiscal calamity awaits, but we can avoid it if we take responsible, urgent action. This campaign is about to get a major (and needed) injection of seriousness.

On the one hand, Guy is absolutely right. An election which thus far has been pretty much about nothing more than lies, damned lies, dogs and dancing horses may be on the verge of getting very serious. And it’s a conversation which the nation desperately needs to have. In the words of one analyst this morning on CNN, the Republicans were “going to have to talk about the Ryan plan anyway. Why not put forward the best person to defend it?” Without question, Paul Ryan is that man. He’s also extremely likable and engaging, whether talking to supporters or opponents. His TV Q potential is pretty high.

So is there a downside? Some of the usual caveats apply. He’s running from a seat in the House without any official, executive experience, so Democrats will raise the “ready to lead on day two” question. (Oblivious to the fact they didn’t say the same about Biden.) He’s also relatively young at 42, but that’s not much younger than Obama when he was first running. Plus, assuming two wins, he’d be 50 for the 2020 election, which isn’t too shabby.

But as much as we need to have this conversation about fiscal responsibility and the future of entitlement programs, I confess that I’m still nervous about whether or not the rest of the country is ready to lace up their boots and seriously discuss tough medicine for an ailing system. Perhaps it’s just because I’m out in New York and we are still smarting from the 2011 debacle where we lost what was considered the safest GOP seat in the New York delegation to a county clerk who ran a blistering campaign, 24/7 with absolutely no other message than the fact that her Republican opponent would not completely disavow the Ryan Plan.

But I’m probably just a Nervous Nellie. I found myself asking the same question AP did, as to why it wasn’t Jindal if Mitt had to “go bold.” But there’s no doubt this is going to move the game and we’ve got a very serious, intelligent person ready to take on the tough issues in the second seat.

Exit question until we get to the updates later… is it possible that Paul Ryan will somewhat overshadow Mitt in the media coverage?

UPDATE: (Jazz) – Well, the announcements are over and everything is nice and official. After watching Ryan’s delivery of his announcement speech, I would only write a two word review.

Very impressive.