With the allegations against Chris Christie, the media thinks there’s a new frontrunner for the Republican party’s presidential nomination in 2016. According to Larry Sabato, it’s Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. According to Peter Beinart, it’s Rand Paul. According to the Week’s David Linker, it’s former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
In this context, Kevin Drum suggested that Wisconsin congressman and former Romney running mate Paul Ryan is the prohibitive favorite to win the Republican party’s presidential nomination in 2016, due to sympathetic press coverage for his anti-poverty proposals and his budget deal with Patty Murray, “all stuff that seems very delicately calculated to stay in the good graces of the tea party base while building up plenty of policy substance cred that will keep him attractive to moderate voters.”
I do like Ryan. Before the Bridgegate mess, I figured my vote in the presidential primary would go to either Ryan (assuming he ran) or Christie, with the caveat that a lot would change in the next two years.
Some conservatives have started arguing that executive experience is essential for a modern President, so we should look to Governors instead of Senators. And Paul Ryan isn’t even a Senator. This preference seems to be a response to the shortcomings of President Obama, who came to the White House after eight years in the State Senate, and four in the US Senate (most of which was devoted to helping out congressional candidates in Midterms, and then running his own presidential campaign).
There are differences between where Paul Ryan is now, and where Barack Obama was several years ago. As Chairman of the Finance Committee, Paul Ryan has held a significant post since John Kasich and Scott Walker (two executives mentioned as potential 2016 candidates) became Governors. He has had to show leadership on a national level.
They’re both low-key Wisconsinites, both young, both with battle scars from their fiscal initiatives. Walker’s win over PEUs is arguably the biggest conservative policy victory since Obama took office, and seems to me increasingly recognized as such. For all his alleged “baggage,” he’s still on track to win reelection in a state where the left and its union allies have been frantic to take him down for the past three years. Ryan’s got him beat in name recognition right now but all governors have to cope with better-known rivals when they first start running. And at this point, Walker has a broader base between centrists and conservatives than Ryan does.
I can understand a preference for Governors, but one occasional problem is that some Governors will be ignorant about circumstances and priorities outside of their state. See Rick Perry in 2012, or Sarah Palin in 2008. An understanding of how Washington works can be a good thing.
Paul Ryan could also help rebrand the Republican party. There’s an caricature of the GOP as the party of old people and idiots, with the likes of Ronald Reagan (oldest President ever elected), George HW Bush (fourth oldest President ever elected), Bob Dole (oldest major party presidential nominee), John McCain (second-oldest major party nominee), Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney and Mitt Romney in the former category, and George W Bush, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle fairly or unfairly in the latter. There aren’t serious arguments against Paul Ryan’s intelligence, and while he has significant political experience, he would be one of the youngest men ever elected President. Youth helped Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in the past. Walker’s relatively young, but the lack of a college degree can play into stereotypes about dumb Republicans.
There is the counterpoint that Paul Ryan should have helped the Republican ticket win in Wisconsin, and that the failure to carry state suggests his weakness at the top of the ticket. But looking at the results, he may have helped the ticket in his home state as much as a running mate can be reasonably be expected to.
Wisconsin went for President Obama by nearly fourteen points in 2008. That advantage was down to just under seven points in 2012. Compared to the popular vote, Wisconsin was 6.7% more liberal than the rest of the country in 2008. That was down to 3.04% in 2012.