Until Saturday, nobody ever accused Mitt Romney of being bold. The poster boy for caution, Romney leaped way outside the box for the most important decision he will make as a candidate.
By picking the youthful and brainy Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney passed up far less controversial options. He went bold instead of safe.
Then again, he didn’t really have much choice. Romney was on course to lose the election to Barack Obama, perhaps by a landslide. Swing states were swinging against him as independents, despite unhappiness with Obama, were even more unhappy with Romney. And too many Republicans remain unenthusiastic about their party’s nominee.
The latest Fox News poll had Romney getting only 40 percent of the total vote, meaning he hasn’t even secured the normal GOP base. All voters favored Obama by 9 points and independents by 11.
This was a disaster in the making, and Romney and his team resembled deer caught in the headlights. As Obama leveled a barrage of attacks, some so fundamentally dishonest that many Dems recoiled, Romney played defense, and not very well.
Desperate times can shrink a man, or embolden him. Happily, the Ryan pick signals that Romney wants to reset the campaign by enlarging it to include an informed debate on the nation’s fundamental economic and budget mess. Sticking with his initial game plan, which assumed that emphasizing his biography as a job-creating businessman would beat Obama, wasn’t working.
Ryan, of course, is a gift to both sides. He showed why yesterday with his speech that touched the Tea Party erogenous zones by calling America an idea as well as a place and saying that liberty comes from God instead of government. He also flashed his calling card — the need to make tough decisions about Medicare, Medicaid and deficits.
Those topics are red meat for both camps, depending how the salami is sliced. Ryan wants to slice his plans as being essential to spur growth and opportunity, while Dems will slice it as punitive, claiming it will dismantle entitlements and tilt society toward the rich.