Some leftist pundits have described Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as a panic or desperation pick. This gets the pick precisely wrong, in my view. By selecting Ryan, Romney demonstrates a confidence in the conservative course he first charted, or was forced into, during the primary season. The response to Team Obama’s attacks on that course is “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”
To be sure, the Ryan pick shows that Romney was unwilling to run a passive campaign cast solely as a referendum on the economy. It also shows that he perceived a need to liven things up and to solidify the base.
But if Romney had panicked in the face of minor polling reversals driven, presumably, by Obama’s attack ads, he would not opened himself up further to the most threatening of Obama’s lines of attack — that Romney will address our fiscal difficulties not by making the rich pay their “fair share,” but rather by slashing popular programs like Medicare. The Ryan pick tells Team Obama, in effect, to bring it on. It is a fearless pick, not a panic pick.
A Romney in full panic mode would have selected a running mate with whom he could tack away from his present course — a Condi Rice or, to a lesser extent, a Chris Christie. A Romney in semi-panic mode would have tried to shake things up with a running mate who could create buzz and stir the base, without reinforcing Team Obama’s claims that Romney is dead-set on ending Medicare as we know it. Rubio and Jindal might have served that purpose.
Instead Romney threw down the gauntlet. Wise or not, this wasn’t panic.