When Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, he made a bold statement.
The choice was largely unexpected. Most believed Romney would go with a safe choice – someone not too far to the right but also not a moderate, someone who lives in a swing state who could help a little with the electoral math. The plain vanilla Ohio Congressman, Rob Portman, fit that description, so he was a top guess.
Ryan is far from plain vanilla. His proposed budget plan has been vilified from the outset by the left. The plan, backed by congressional Republicans, makes significant cuts to federal budget programs in an effort to balance the budget.
Romney’s selection seems to be saying, "Bring on the debate on the economy."
A change of subject in the campaign was imperative for Romney. Over the last few weeks, the Obama campaign and political groups supporting his re-election launched a steady stream of attacks not on the issues but on Romney’s resume, specifically his time spent working for venture capitalist group Bain Capital.
One ad even tied Romney to the death of a man’s wife because the man was laid off by his company and lost his health care benefits while his wife had cancer. The ad blames Romney because he at one time worked for Bain Capital, which made the decision to close the plant where the man in the ad worked.
People say they deplore such negative ads but the ads keep popping up because they work. Poll numbers were beginning to show signs of that in key swing states. So changing the subject back to the economy, which continues to struggle with President Obama in the White House, definitely is a good strategy.
And so far both sides appear to welcome the debate on the economy.
"Paul is our party’s leader on our country’s most urgent challenge: solving our looming debt crisis. Paul’s budget will reverse the reckless Obama spending, save Medicare, and put America back on the path to prosperity," wrote Republican 4th District congressional candidate Tom Cotton. He sounded even more fired up in an e-mail to Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, saying: "In a near ambush, turn into the fire and assault through the ambush."
Going to bat for team Obama was Democratic 1st District candidate Scott Ellington, who tied his opponent, incumbent Republican Congressman Rick Crawford, to the Ryan budget plan.
"The Paul Ryan budget was called ‘right wing social engineering’ by none other than Newt Gingrich because it pays for additional tax breaks for billionaires by ending Medicare’s guaranteed coverage, investments in agriculture and farmers, schools and education and our nation’s veterans and their families. How can small businessmen, entrepreneurs, farmers and workers prosper again with Washington knocking out the legs of recovery? We can’t," wrote Ellington.
The good news for voters is that candidates finally have a chance to engage in a real substantive debate on perhaps the biggest crisis facing the country. America cannot continue borrowing money at the current pace. The only real solutions are unpopular – budget cuts or tax hikes.
Perhaps it is wishful thinking that politicians will finally get honest about this and tell us the harsh truth. But choosing a vice presidential candidate that has shown he will dare to engage in the debate is at least a step in the right direction.
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com