For Romney, Ryan’s Pros Are Also His Cons

Romney shook up the 2012 race by picking Paul Ryan as his running mate. But there's a catch.

Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(The Root) — There’s an alternate universe somewhere out there in which the GOP wound up getting the presidential nominee that it really always wanted: a perfect Tea Party specimen possessing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s brain, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s conservative ardor and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s Latino-ness — all packed into Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s shell.

In real life, though, they wound up with Mitt Romney: a one-term governor with good hair and a nervous laugh who’s flip-flopped on almost every political issue of his career.

But now, at least according to conventional wisdom, Republicans have Paul Ryan — the 42 year-old House Budget Committee chairman who Romney announced on Saturday as his vice-presidential running mate while they stood on the pier together in front of the bunting-clad battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin among cheering supporters in Norfolk, Va.

And now, in theory, the ideological tug-of-war is balanced out between the issue-agnostic, corporate-friendly Republicanism represented by Romney, and the Tea Party-inspired, fiscally hawkish populism touted by Ryan.

Except that when it comes to tough budgetary calls, Ryan’s as big a squish as Romney.

In his brief speech accepting Romney’s nomination, Ryan said President Barack Obama “refused to make difficult decisions” when it comes to the budget. But it’ll be a dicey case for him to make after voters are reminded that Ryan’s done as much as almost anyone over his 14 years in Congress to help rack up enormous federal deficits.

Ryan voted for the TARP bailout — the only sensible course of action after the 2008 banking crash, but a course that’s been routinely denounced by fellow conservatives. And he voted “yes” on President George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq and Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit — the most notorious federal budget busters of the last decade.

Counter to the conventional wisdom, Ryan’s not a counterweight to Romney as much as he is a bookend — who voted for the priciest programs of the Bush era, then abruptly found fiscal religion in the Obama era.