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Ryan brings blue-collar appeal to the ticket as well. The seven-term member of Congress is a fifth-generation Wisconsin native who has moonlighted as a waiter and a fitness trainer while in Washington, D.C., and an Oscar Mayer “Lunchables” salesman during his summers between college semesters. His hobbies include hunting and fishing, and his taste in music runs from Rage Against the Machine to Led Zeppelin. Much of this will undoubtedly offset Romney’s elitist, out-of-touch image, along with solidifying Ryan’s credentials as a man interested in making America better for all Americans.
A Romney/Ryan ticket also represents a milestone of sorts: this is the first time one of the presidential slates contains both a Mormon and a Catholic. The timing may be propitious in that the Obama administration has sought to force Catholic institutions to provide birth control, including abortifacients, to their employees, in direct contradiction to their religious principles.
In other words, that battle has been joined. Ryan brings a blast of energy to a campaign in dire need of that energy. His budgetary expertise will stand in stark contrast to a Democratic Party attempting to convince Americans they can “have it all” with respect to entitlement programs — even as they have yet to offer even the slightest idea how a country drowning in a sea of red ink will pay for it. Ryan, who is a walking, talking encyclopedia of budgetary facts and figures, will undoubtedly press them to explain that contradiction.
Yet the choice of Ryan also says a lot about Mitt Romney. First and foremost, it demonstrates a sense of self-awareness about his own shortcomings, which like any good businessman, he has chosen to address. Picking Ryan, who may outshine him, also reveals a willingness by Romney to manage his ego, as does his willingness to adopt Ryan’s budget strategy as his own. Romney has also turned a race that was rapidly becoming a mudfest into one of competing visions of the future of the nation–at a time when that future is very much at stake. And finally, a man with a reputation for playing it safe has suddenly shown a determination to take the kind of risk no one expected to take, revealing a strength of character in the process.
One line in Ryan’s acceptance speech summed up the essential difference between the campaigns. “If you have a small business, you did build that,” he said. That’s starkly different from president Obama’s agenda for the future. And in a presidential election, few things are better that well-illuminated differences in agendas. Courtesy of Mitt Romney picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Americans now have a clear set of choices in November — possibly the clearest one in quite some time.
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