— — Until just a few years ago, the “Jeopardy” answer to the question “Who is Paul Ryan?” would have been “A character on the daytime soap opera ‘As the World Turns’ who took his mother’s name because he hated his father so much.”
Until last week, the answer most of us had about the question of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was simple: He’s the fellow who wants to “reform” Medicare by forcing recipients to pay more for it.
When GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced Ryan was his choice for a running mate, it said a few things about the process and the priority Romney had for a running mate.
On paper, Ryan was probably no better than the fifth best pick for vice president, and it could be argued there are even more choices that would have added strength to the ballot.
What Romney clearly needs is what Bill Clinton needed in 1992 when he chose then Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee as his No. 2 – a candidate with congressional ties who would complement his own experience as a governor. What Romney did was break with traditional American political philosophy that members of the House of Representatives don’t merit consideration for presidential or vice presidential consideration and veteran, well-known career politicians are the natural picks.
Not since Gerald Ford has a member of the House gone on to be vice president, but Ford assumed that position almost 40 years ago when Spiro Agnew resigned and Richard Nixon was on the brink of impeachment. He was summarily defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Bob Dole turned to House legend Jack Kemp in 1996, but that campaign also failed to produce a GOP winner.
What Ryan does for Romney is validate the generation of Republicans the party will need to replace an aging group of leaders. Ryan is 42, and while he might not win the race for Romney, he’s positioned to be in Washington for some time, and that gives Republicans another player with name recognition who will be around for some time as a keynote speaker.