ANALYSIS: If -- as many political gurus believe -- Mitt Romney has already made up his mind about who he wants at his side between now and November, all of the chatter, advice and urging he's hearing this week may not matter one bit.
But with uncertainty still surrounding Romney's choice of running mate, voices on the right are taking this opportunity to try to sway his decision, and lately the persuasion campaign seems to be focused on one contender: Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
The influential Wall Street Journal editorial page weighed in last night, saying that Ryan, "best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election. More than any other politician, the House Budget Chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline."
The Journal didn't stop there. Its editors cast Ryan as a one of the "the GOP's new generation of reformers" who turned down the advice of "every Beltway bedwetter" and decided to tackle the fraught issue of entitlement reform.
"Like Reagan, he has a basic cheerfulness and Midwestern equanimity," the Journal wrote, adding that Ryan also possesses a "Jack Kemp-like belief in opportunity for all."
Long before this week's last-minute push for the 42-year-old congressman from Janesville, Wisc., Democrats were already giddy at the prospect that Ryan could be Romney's No. 2. They have their sights set on attacking Ryan's budget plans, in particular his proposed Medicare reforms.
Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative National Review in a Politico Op-Ed yesterday put it this way: "In political terms, picking Ryan is supposedly like hanging out with the No. 2 of an Al Qaeda affiliate somewhere in the badlands of the Middle East. He's a target. If the missiles haven't yet taken him out, it's only because the drone is hovering silently overhead before hurling down its bolts of death."
But Lowry's point wasn't to dissuade Romney from choosing Ryan. Just the opposite.
"Ryan would inject a jolt of energy into the campaign and reorient the debate around policy," the National Review editor wrote. "The Romney campaign doesn't have to be reckless. It does have to have a pulse. It doesn't have to commit ideological hari-kari. It does have to have an unmistakable substantive content."
Recently the editors of the Weekly Standard have also been extolling the virtues of picking Ryan and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have all had kind words.
Where is Ryan in all of this? He is beginning a week-long vacation in Colorado this weekend and is refusing to weigh in on the veepstakes speculation. But, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Craig Gilbert Ryan indicated that if he were picked, he'd be ready for the fight.
"I want that debate . . . I'm really eager to have that debate. That's what we're here for. The reason I want that debate is they have to falsify to make their claims (about his budget)," Ryan said in the interview with Gilbert. "They have no alternative, no solution. All they have is, 'Let's stick with status quo.'"