Ryan Carries Banner of Economic Revival

Paul Ryan was selected as the Mitt Romney's vice president for the 2012 presidential election. Since then, Romney has closed the gap on President Obama in several states. Ryan has been performing on the national stage better than anyone could have anticipated, putting a new youthful face on the Republican party.

Updated August 30, 2012, 2:43 a.m. ET
Wall Street Journal

A funny thing didn't happen on the way to Paul Ryan's rousing speech Wednesday night accepting the GOP nomination for Vice President. The Republican ticket hasn't sunk in the polls, Democrats haven't nationalized the race around Medicare to their advantage, and seniors haven't fled Mitt Romney in droves.

All of those outcomes were predicted with utter certainty by the great political sages when Mr. Romney selected Mr. Ryan on that mid-August weekend. Go back to the videotape for the August 12 Sunday talk shows. Many Republicans—some in Mr. Romney's own campaign—said the same thing sotto voce. (We know who you are.)

So far they've all been exactly wrong, as the polls show Mr. Romney having closed the gap against President Obama not only in Mr. Ryan's native Wisconsin but in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. On Medicare, an issue that Democrats usually dominate, Mr. Romney is battling to a draw at worst and is nearly even among voters on which candidate is most trusted. This hasn't happened since the dawn of the entitlement age.

What's going on? The Romney campaign deserves credit for staging an Inchon landing by skillfully using ObamaCare to go on offense against Mr. Obama on Medicare. Liberals and the reporters they dine with still can't bring themselves to believe that their historic achievement is unpopular, so they and the press corps refuse to admit that the Affordable Care Act has changed the entitlement debate.

But retirees know that Mr. Obama robbed Medicare's accounts to make ObamaCare's budget impact look benign. And even if they can't follow the deliberately convoluted details of phony Beltway bookkeeping, they are learning that Mr. Obama's Medicare "cuts" are immediate and Mr. Ryan's reforms won't apply to anyone over age 55. The Obama campaign won't give up on Mediscare, but it has been caught unprepared.

Mr. Ryan has also performed better on the national stage than even many of his supporters anticipated. Even Democrats have had to concede he's no lightweight and does his homework. He has put a new, youthful face on the Republican Party, and his earnest enthusiasm is a walking refutation of Democratic claims that he's a Randian radical. He looks and sounds like Janesville.

The latest assault is that Mr. Ryan won the genetic lottery, has no feeling for his fellow man, and thus wrote a budget that grinds down the less fortunate. These attacks will be on full display next week in Charlotte, especially now that it has become clear that Mr. Romney might win.

The best response to these attacks is for Mr. Ryan to keep showcasing his natural optimism and Midwestern equanimity, as he did on Wednesday. Mr. Ryan had the difficult job of introducing himself to a public that barely knows him while also fulfilling the running mate's traditional job of dismantling the record of his opponents.

He did the first by focusing on his family, his Wisconsin roots and by paying tribute to his mentor, the late Jack Kemp. On the latter, he showed the ability to expose the President's failures more in sorrow than in anger. His line about jobless college graduates in their 20s "staring up at fading Obama posters" in their childhood bedrooms is the line of the campaign and was Reaganesque in its subtle but still withering truth. This sets up Mr. Romney to offer his own positive vision and agenda on Thursday.

Perhaps the best explanation for Mr. Ryan's impact on the race may be how it has changed perceptions of the man at the top of the ticket. Nearly everyone had expected Mitt Romney, the cautious technocrat and political calculator, to make the "safe" pick. In choosing Mr. Ryan, the Governor showed both a political daring as a candidate and a seriousness about governing if he wins.

This has motivated the GOP base, in case it needed any more motivating. But it doesn't seem to have hurt among independents, who can appreciate a candidate who seems sincere and unafraid in his desire to address the country's serious problems.

Mr. Romney has had a hard time inspiring enthusiasm less because of his personality than because his candidacy has seemed more a personal crusade than a cause. In choosing Mr. Ryan, Mr. Romney gave Americans hope that he is trying to rally the country for the larger purpose of greater freedom and national revival.

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