The Ryan Pick

I realize it’s not fashionable these days to be relaxed by campaign events, especially VP picks, but Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan has set me at ease.

First, and most obviously, I don’t think it was his best pick, politically speaking, and therefore it (very slightly) increases Obama’s chances of re-election. Romney was on better footing when he could draft off of the natural tendency of voters to blame the incumbent for their current woes, keeping the focus on his opponent. Now the Obama campaign can shift the focus to Ryan and his budget plan, and engage in some good old-fashioned scaremongering about how he wants to take away everyone’s Medicare, which has the added benefit of being more or less true.

But I was also set at ease because of what the pick means for if Romney does win. On the campaign trail he’s transmogrified from a moderate, sensible, New England Republican into a cookie-cutter national GOP mouthpiece, so people wonder, quite rightly, just who he’ll be when he’s actually sitting in the Oval Office. And I’ve always suspected that he’d go right back to governor-of-Massachusetts mode, and social conservatives would grumble, business leaders would cheer, and he still wouldn’t be my choice over Obama, but he wouldn’t be a catastrophe, and if we’re lucky he might be able to pull off a Grand Compromise or two.

Romney picking Ryan reaffirms my hunch. Ryan is a longtime political operative and a thorough policy geek. He’s a number-cruncher. I’m sure he has plenty of votes putting him on the wrong side of social issues, but being a socially conservative crusader is not his thing. And while I happen to think that some of his core assumptions render his solutions for fixing the country’s budget and economic path highly problematic, I give him credit for presenting concrete and even unpopular proposals for addressing real problems. Ryan is the pick for a technocrat, not an ideologue.

Plus, the propect of a Biden-Ryan VP debate gives me something to actually look forward to in an otherwise hideous election season.