Last week I attended a Romney event at which Paul Ryan and Rob Portman, two potential VP nominees, spoke about competing visions for the country. Until the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, many had considered the 2012 election a referendum on President Obama, and that seemed less risky for Romney than running a true visionary campaign like Reagan did in 1980. Well, the Supreme Court may have forced Romney’s hand and turned this election into 1980 even if Romney is not truly a movement conservative. That’s why Romney needs a movement team with a movement message.
The fact that 2013 will likely be the last realistic chance of preventing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the likelihood that within the next few years we will need major budgetary reform that includes entitlements, and the probability that the current Bush tax rates will be up for another vote after this election mean that 2013 is a pivotal year. Unless the Republicans control a majority in both the House and Senate while also having the White House, the ACA is going to be implemented and budget reform that saves our social safety net is not going to happen. It’s very simple: If we are to prevent the new healthcare law from changing our economy and relationship with government, and if we are to avoid the crumbling of our social welfare system, then Republicans have to sweep 2012.
The consensus among the pundits is that Romney will choose a safe VP. Safe is fine, as long as it also means conservative reformer. Mitt Romney is an adaptable, impressive executive who has been successful in both the private and public sectors. He has led a dark blue state from the center-right, has run an Olympics operation that was struggling, and has been wildly successful in the private sector. If you can adapt to lead in all of those circumstances, you have a much better case that you can succeed in the White House than someone who had never run anything with any notable success other than a political campaign. But Romney is a manager, the George H.W. Bush to Reagan’s visionary leader. Romney needs a visionary leader on the ticket, and he needs credible reformers in key positions in both his cabinet and in Congress.
Enter Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal. Congressman Ryan is perhaps the most articulate, wonky federal legislator when it comes to budget issues and healthcare. He schooled the President at the healthcare summit a few years ago, has proposed healthcare reforms that are gaining traction with both the right and left (see his plan with Ron Wyden (D-OR)), and has the only budget plans in town that have passed any part of Congress the last few years (while the President’s plans have received no votes from either Republicans or Democrats).
Governor Jindal is one of the nation’s most popular governors, specializing in education reform and health policy (he was Secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals at age 24!). He has dealt directly with the Obama administration, refusing stimulus money and the implementation of burdensome healthcare reforms, and he has some great stories about the administration’s petty and incompetent behavior during the BP Gulf oil crisis.
Both Ryan and Jindal are exciting reformers who are popular and would not alienate either the Republican base or the center. Both should be on Romney’s team, and while they are both campaigning for him, one should be on the ticket. I propose that Governor Jindal should be Mitt’s running mate, giving him another strong executive leader who can articulate healthcare and education policy (areas of general Republican weakness). Paul Ryan, on the other hand, needs to be leading tax and entitlement reform from Ways and Means.
Ryan can pass all the tax and entitlement reforms he wants, however, without doing any good if the Senate is controlled by Harry Reid, who will continue to wait until he gets a Democrat majority in the House with whom he can pass more legislation like the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, the stimulus, etc. If Republicans sweep 2012 and surprise the country with their reforms then Senator Reid and the Democrats may get their majorities back in 2014. This is why Romney needs a movement ticket that takes a clear vision into the White House and into both chambers of Congress.
(EDIT: I initially wrote about Ryan doing “budget” reform from Ways and Means, using “budget” in a loose sense. I’ve corrected so to not confuse with what the Budget Committee does.)