The following editorial appeared Friday in the Miami Herald.
In selecting U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential choice, Mitt Romney did more to define himself and his political campaign than in all those tiresome debates and the seemingly endless months of campaigning leading up to this month’s convention in Tampa, Fla.
Florida Republicans would have preferred favorite son Marco Rubio, but with Ryan on the ticket as VP nominee, the former Massachusetts governor has gone a long way toward dispelling any doubt that he is running as a true conservative.
And by placing Rubio in the convention spotlight to introduce him in prime time as the party’s presidential nominee, Romney ensures good will from Florida’s Republicans.
Earlier this year, before the GOP primary in Florida, we called Romney the closest thing to a mainstream candidate in that race. What others saw as an asset, however, looked like a weakness to unswerving conservatives. They remained lukewarm toward the GOP candidate until last weekend, when he chose a tea party favorite as his running mate.
This relieves Romney of the burden of having to fight a two-front war on the campaign trail — reaching out to moderates and independents while at the same time having to prove himself to skeptical conservatives within his own party.
Ryan can guard the ticket’s right flank from now on, giving Romney room to run as a practical, no-nonsense businessman.
Ryan has solid conservative credentials. He’s a Catholic (against abortion rights), a hunter (great rating from the NRA) and something of a hawk (has supported sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan). But he also voted for the 2008 bank bailout many conservatives detest (“to preserve this free enterprise system,” he said); supported the auto bailout that Romney opposed; and has defended wage laws favored by unions.
The Wisconsin congressman also has some serious political baggage over Medicare, a critical issue in this campaign. He is best known as the author of a spending plan that passed the House and contained what Democrats describe as a full-scale assault on the government’s health insurance program for seniors.
Romney didn’t say much about this on his first post-Ryan foray into Florida. It’s the issue that has already become the centerpiece of the debate, in Florida and beyond, and will likely remain so for the rest of the campaign.
Romney complains that the president’s plan takes money out of Medicare to help finance the Affordable Care Act. But a fuller account would acknowledge that Ryan’s plan does much the same. Although it would repeal “Obamacare,” one version of the Ryan plan would retain the reductions in Medicare mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says, “Most elderly people who would be entitled to premium support payments would pay more for their health-care (under the Ryan plan) than they would pay under the current Medicare system.” The average recipient would pay $6,500 more.
There’s a larger issue here: Whether our budget problems can be solved solely by cutting spending. That’s what Romney and Ryan believe. Obama seems to believe that just raising tax rates for the wealthiest Americans can do the trick, without cutting spending, as his own Simp-son- Bowles Commission recommended.
These are the two contending visions about what’s right for the country and America’s future. As a worthy topic for a presidential campaign, it certainly beats phony arguments over birth certificates and the car elevator in the garage.