WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mitt Romney appears to have answered any doubts amongst House Republicans that he wouldn’t get behind their push to remake the federal government when he tapped budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate.
And at least for now, they couldn’t be happier.
“If the ticket was a new home, envision Governor Romney painting the outside of the house and Paul Ryan painting all the rooms, inside, which are the details that the new buyers fall in love with,” said Brad Dayspring, senior advisor at the YG Action Fund and a former top aide to Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
The House Republicans have held the hardest line against President Obama's attempts at a compromise on the big issues of taxing and spending, with conservative pressure keeping Speaker John Boehner away from any "grand bargain." And Ryan is prominent among a small group of conservative leaders who believe — against the skepticism of some GOP veterans — that Americans are ready to support principled conservative stands on, even, cuts to popular social programs.
“Ryan's efforts to steer America's economy back on the path to more jobs, less debt and smaller government have been central to the heart of the House Republican agenda,” a senior House GOP leadership aide said Saturday.
“Clearly, his selection as Governor Romney's running mate further emphasizes the united voice with which Republicans are speaking in our efforts to reverse the current Administration's failed policies and put America back on track toward economic growth,” the aide added.
What's more, Romney is as close to an empty policy vessel as any presidential candidate in recent memory. Unlike campaigns in the past that rolled out specific policy planks and built their messaging around them over the course of an election, Romney has been largely content to stick to 50,000-foot pronouncements on jobs, the economy and size of government.
And even when he has rolled out proposals – like his tax and economic plans – those have been largely top-line in nature with little detail on how they would actually end up working.
Romney has also been dogged by questions, particularly from conservatives, about his commitment to key ideological positions on abortion and healthcare thanks to his shifting believes.
But with Ryan by his side, the public, and the Obama campaign, will get a detailed view of what a Romney administration might actually propose.
Ryan is truly a wonk’s wonk. He spent time on Capitol Hill as a staffer before becoming a member of Congress.
And, in addition to Ryan’s trademark work on the budget and taxes, as a six-term lawmaker he has a deep voting record on issues like abortion, gay rights and trade – all areas Ryan is in lockstep with his House colleagues.
And while he and Romney will obviously have their differences – for instance, Ryan voted for the auto bailout that Romney has derided – that record would still give the public clues into a potential Romney-Ryan administration.
And that, Republicans argued, is a good thing for GOP, since it will help move the election away from the sniping and petty attacks that have been its hallmark into a more policy oriented debate based in large part on the House’s agenda.
“If Mitt Romney wants to engage in a battle of ideas with the Barack Obama, there's no better man to have at his side than Paul Ryan. The race has now evolved from petty and irrelevant issues to a battle of ideas focused on the major challenges facing America,” Dayspring said.
Democrats are also more than happy to engage in a fight with a Romney-Ryan ticket, particularly given his controversial push to reduce Medicare spending and remake entitlement spending in general.
“There is no question that former Governor Romney now owns the Republican, Ryan budget that puts millionaires ahead of Medicare and the middle class. Congressman Paul Ryan led House Republicans in voting to end the Medicare guarantee, which increases costs on seniors and weakens America's great middle class in order to give tax breaks to millionaires, Big Oil and corporations that ship jobs overseas,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Saturday.