There are many fine and capable vice presidential possibilities for Mitt Romney, from Marco Rubio to Bobby Jindal to Condoleezza Rice. But at our time of fiscal crisis, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie are his best options.
The polls don’t reflect it yet, but count me among those few who think the presidential election is Mitt Romney’s to lose.
With the economy in shambles and little prospect that things will improve significantly before Election Day, President Barack Obama is in trouble. His gigantic fiscal stimulus failed to stimulate the way his administration had projected. His signature domestic achievement, Obamacare, remains unpopular. And his base no longer projects upon him messianic qualities.
This is a recipe for electoral disaster.
Some conservative political pundits are criticizing Romney for seemingly trying to run out the clock. That is, playing it safe and allowing the economy to defeat Obama for him. Romney needs to be bold, this school of thought goes, in order to beat Obama.
I don’t think that’s true. I think it is quite possible that Romney could win the presidency by playing it safe and taking very few risks.
But merely winning isn’t sufficient. America’s fiscal trajectory is unsustainable. Our entitlement programs contain tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities that make our $15 trillion debt look manageable by comparison. Major entitlement reform will have to be the central domestic focus of our next president.
This isn’t a popular position. Conventional political wisdom dictates that it is political suicide to campaign on a platform to seriously reform — and scale back — Medicare and Social Security. (RELATED: Full coverage of the Romney campaign)
But it must be done or we’re finished as a great power, which is why Mitt Romney needs to make this a choice election. Winning isn’t good enough — he must win on a platform that makes clear, specifically, how his presidency will reform entitlements and get America back on path to lead the 21st century.
This is why of all the choices he has for his vice presidential pick, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are far and away his best to signal the type of choice election we need to have.
Other candidates may be more exciting (Marco Rubio) or potentially politically advantageous (Marco Rubio). But Ryan and Christie epitomize, in slightly different ways, one side of the choice America should be given.
Ryan, of course, is the author of the House budget plan that seeks to reform Medicare and get our fiscal house in order. It is a deadly serious plan, even if I think it could go further. But no politician knows the facts of our looming fiscal disaster better than Ryan. He is able to articulate what needs to be done and why.
Perhaps most crucially, his inclusion on the ticket will make clear what a Romney-Ryan administration will be all about. A win will be far more than just a win — it will be a mandate for fundamental structural change to our entitlement programs and our fiscal situation.