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Paul Ryan and the Republican Future

August 20, 2012

We should hope that Paul Ryan helps Romney beat Obama. Ryan is likeable, glib, and nice-looking, and he has proven able to sell the benefits of fiscal sanity to blue-collar constituencies. Ryan will more than hold his own in the vice presidential debates. He is not going to commit any gaffes or detract from the ticket.

His electoral appeal, however, largely overlaps Romney's support -- hard-nosed fiscal conservatives who know that the path of the last four years will lead to a general meltdown of the American economy. Ryan may help carry Wisconsin, particularly because his own congressional district, which loves him, is strongly Democrat. It is even possible that Ryan will carry a persuasive message into neighboring Rust-Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, and Iowa.

Congressman Ryan, however, is not going to win the election for Romney or do more than provide a modest boost in a few areas. The election remains Romney's to win or to lose, and Romney will have to directly and sharply attack Obama and his Marxist minions without being overly polite or refined.

The greatest importance of Ryan is his influence not on who wins this election, but on who owns the Republican Party in the future. Congressman Ryan is, in many ways, like another congressman whom Reagan or George H. Bush could have picked as his running mate but did not: Congressman Jack Kemp.

In 1980, Kemp was a youthful 45, and even when Reagan left office in 1988, Kemp was 53, plenty young enough to be a vigorous conservative campaigner. Kemp, like Ryan, came from a heavily unionized district in a blue state: Buffalo, New York. Like Ryan, his margins of victory in a district which should have been held by a left-leaning Democrat kept growing. Kemp even looked a bit like Ryan. Byron York has already noted the similarity between Ryan and Kemp.

The real impact of Ryan at the bottom of the Republican ticket in 2012 is that regardless of how the 2012 election turns out, Ryan will have an excellent chance to wind up in future elections as the Republican nominee. His youth, vitality, and conservatism mean that if Romney loses -- a grim thought, but still possible -- the 45-year-old Ryan in 2016 ought to have an excellent chance at capturing the nomination. If Romney wins, Vice President Ryan will become the titular head of the Republican Party when Romney leaves office.

This is important. Recall that in 1996, Republicans nominated Bob Dole to challenge Clinton and that George H. and George W. were the nominees in 1988 and 1992, and then in 2000 and 2004. Remember that four years ago, the leading Republicans were Giuliani, Romney, and McCain. The last time conservatives really led the Republican Party was when Reagan was president. The three elections before Reagan, Republicans chose Ford, Nixon, and Nixon.

The vice presidential Republican nominees have been no more inspiring for conservatives. Agnew, Dole, George H. Bush, and Cheney were the vice presidential nominees in seven out of the eleven presidential elections since 1968. Kemp was picked when he was in his sixties to run with Dole in 1996 ,and Quayle, good and decent and conservative, was made into a laughingstock in a way that Ryan can avoid (Ryan is way too smart, and sounds that way when he talks).

It is a testament to how much non-conservatives have controlled the Republican nomination that in the last 44 years, conservatives have had cause to celebrate three times: when Reagan was at the top of the ticket in 1980 and 1984, and when Palin was McCain's running mate in 2008. The selection of Paul Ryan is, really, the best news for conservatives since 1980.

This dovetails perfectly with the success of the Tea Party in Republican primaries. Since the rise of New Deal leftism, the Republican Party been the party which acts almost ashamed of its conservative roots. More and more, Republicans are standing tough: Scott Walker is an excellent example, and Paul Ryan, another Wisconsin Republican, brings the point home.

The only hope of turning around America is for the Republican Party to be, genuinely, the conservative party and for this Republican Party to become the majority party at the national and the state level. Congressman Paul Ryan, now crown prince of the Republican Party, shows just how close we have come to that victory.

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Copyright ©2012 Bruce Walker

Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.