Paul Ryan Is High-Risk, High-Reward for Mitt Romney

Paul Ryan has become a frontrunner for the GOP VP nomination.

August 10, 2012, 3:37 PM

Aug. 11, 2012 -- Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan -- who Republican sources now tell ABC News has been selected as Mitt Romney's running mate -- is a young, politically tested, but controversial figure on Capitol Hill.

Just 42 years old, he's already been elected to represent Wisconsin's 1st District seven times. Within the Republican Party, he's regarded as a rising star, and conservatives would be delighted to see him added to the ticket. It's no secret that some of the more hardcore factions inside the GOP have their doubts about Romney (see: Rick Santorum's longevity in the primaries). Having Ryan riding shotgun with the candidate would ease the bulk of their concerns.

On the flip side, Paul Ryan is popular -- arguably more popular with Republicans than Romney himself. Here's a challenge: Name another vice presidential nominee with similar credentials whose ticket won the general election? Exactly.

The last two presidents picked older running mates, neither of whom threatened to gin up more popular interest than the candidate himself. Choosing Ryan would be an unusually bold move by Romney's mostly cautious campaign, the kind of decision some party insiders say will be required to defeat President Obama in November. But it also sets up more than a few potential tripwires. Here are some of the strongest arguments for, and against, sticking Ryan on the ticket.

Paul Ryan's "Roadmap" to Deficit Reduction

For – No one will ever accuse Ryan of being an obstructionist or lacking in ideas. The New Yorker called the House Budget Committee chairman the leader of his party's "attack-and-propose faction." Rather than simply work to tie up Obama-backed legislation in Congress, he's put forth two alternative budgets, in 2009 and 2010. In those, as with his "Roadmap for America's Future" acts (one in 2008 and an updated version for 2010), Ryan advocates strongly for deficit reduction.

And he's specific about how he would do it.

Against – He's specific about how he would do it. However one feels about the "Roadmap" proposal, and people tend to feel rather strongly, there's no doubt about what it would entail. The top tax rates would be cut to 25 percent from 35 percent; all taxes on capital gains, interest, and stock dividends would be eliminated; and, most controversially, the Ryan plan would privatize Social Security and Medicare.

Social Security and Medicare are politically dangerous and having Ryan as his running mate would force Romney to constantly defend Ryan's proposals or explain his differences with those unpopular proposals.

Odds of Romney Picking Paul Ryan as VP Double in Political Betting Market

Paul Ryan, Master Politician

For – Ryan is a winner. He has never lost an election.

Against – His record in the private sector is thin, having entered Congress at age 28. Before winning office, Ryan worked during college as an Oscar Mayer salesman – yes, he drove the Weinermobile – and then mostly on Republican political campaigns and for elected officials. He also reportedly made some money on the side as a personal trainer.

That resume is not exactly the "real world" business experience to which the Romney campaign has staked its argument.

Paul Ryan, Fundraiser Extraordinaire

For – Ryan is a prolific fundraiser. Not that Romney is stuck for cash, but by the end of the first fiscal quarter of this year Ryan had raised $3.1 million for this election, his eighth, which like the six before it is not considered competitive.

Against – Ryan's ability to raise money is tied to his reputation as the party's foremost deficit hawk. But as a vice presidential nominee, he would be required to compromise some of his fiscal purity. Every running mate has to give a little up for the good of the ticket. The question for Ryan is whether giving up tailoring his brand to fit the current GOP platform will cancel out his initial appeal.

Also of note, Ryan has never campaigned for himself outside of his own congressional district. And Ryan's reputation for fiscal austerity would likely be challenged by Democrats who will point to his "yes" votes on the bank bailouts and on President Bush's pricey Medicare expansion program.

Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's "Sixth Son"

For – Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are pals. By all accounts, the men genuinely get along. Sarah Palin's shadow has long cast itself over this process, and while none of the likely picks have much in common with Palin, Republicans will be comforted to know that Ryan is a pretty sure bet to stay on message even as the race begins to heat up.

Against – Great, they can eat dinner and talk policy without clawing at each other's necks. But when they're having these discussions, are they agreeing? Ryan hasn't been shy with his criticism of Romney's Massachusetts health care reform law, saying he's "not a fan of the system" and that, despite there being "96 or 98 percent insured, [people in Massachusetts] see the system bursting at the seams."

Paul Ryan, Wisconsinite

For – President Obama beat John McCain by 14 points in Wisconsin in 2008. Today, the spread is just six. Ryan could help keep the Badger state in play. Even if they don't win there, Obama would have to spend money to defend what had been considered safe ground.

Against – People, as the saying goes, vote for president, not vice president. It's unlikely, come Election Day, anyone who's currently undecided or leaning toward Obama will hop on the Romney bandwagon just because Ryan's riding shotgun.