Like John McCain in 2008, Mitt Romney needs a game changer VP pick - and party leaders think they may have found the man. U.S. Representative Paul Ryan could, they say, make a persuasive vice presidential pick thanks to what he himself calls the 'checklist.'
'I check a series of boxes,' the Wisconsin Republican reminded the media in 2008. 'Young guy. Economics guy. From a swing state. Catholic.'
It could be the magic political formula that Romney is seeking to bolster the public's perception of him as a rather uninspiring and dull candidate. Thanks to the controversial budgets that Ryan persuaded House Republicans to pass in 2011 and 2012, he's become a national figure and something of a star of the hard right.
Romney understood that magic allure when he asked Ryan to campaign with him for five days in Wisconsin this spring. But at this stage it's still too early to tell if Romney will tap him to be running mate.
First of all the math isn't promising. Only two sitting House members were selected for the vice presidential spot since 1948 by either party. Both tickets lost and neither VP pick ever held elected office again.
Ryan’s age is another factor. At 42 he would be the third-youngest vice presidential selection since World War II, after Richard Nixon, 39, in 1952 and Dan Quayle, 41, in 1988.
According to the Boston Herald, political science researchers and academics debate whether running mates have any effect at all on presidential elections. In a 2001 paper called 'Requiem for a Lightweight,' author David Romero of the University of Texas argued they have none.
Even GOP strategist Karl Rove agrees: 'Running mates haven’t decided an election in more than a half-century,' he wrote in The Wall Street Journal last week.
But Ryan may not have gotten the memo. Since the start of 2012 Ryan’s seven appearances on Sunday news shows this rank him second only to Ron Paul, who has been running for president. Ryan has reportedly appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CNBC and other channels.
Ryan may be a practicing Catholic but that was not enough to stop the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ruling his budget would hurt the poor and vulnerable. Bishops urged lawmakers to 'resist for moral and human reasons' the cuts to hunger and nutrition programs in the Ryan budget. Just last week more than 80 professors and administrators at Georgetown University signed a letter to Ryan before his appearance at the famous Catholic school accusing him of wrongly citing Catholic teaching to argue for his budget.
Ryan's budget calls for biting cuts in Medicaid and a total overhaul of Medicare for people currently under the age of 55, making both Ryan and his policies a political lightning rod.
Romney could benefit from choosing a running mate popular with economic conservatives, but he could also be opening himself up to the divisive shortcomings of that choice too. Time will tell.
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