Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan brings in many votes for him. But the powerful personality at Mitt's side could also contest his presidency.
If Hurricane Isaac allows it, Mitt Romney will spend the next week in front of a television set. In some Tampa hotel room, he will follow the run-up to his coronation prior to taking the stage himself. That's the way the old ritual has always run — saving the candidate's appearance for the end. But it's uncertain whether what Romney sees on his television screen will please him very much.
From a distance, he will be able to observe how enthusiastically his party embraces Paul Ryan. And it's only then that doubts about the wisdom of his choice for a running mate will begin to creep in. For weeks, Ryan will bask in the spotlight — the smart, good-looking 42-year-old congressman from Wisconsin's first district.
But Romney is supposed to be the focus of attention in Tampa. A “do-over” had been planned, a general overhaul of Romney's image in order to give him a fighting chance against Obama's position on the likability scale. That's why party colleagues, companions and family members all had one mission: To show Romney as a man with heart and convictions. But those intentions now threaten to be swept away by Hurricane Isaac and Paul Ryan. Isaac wasn't Romney's fault — Ryan was.
The selection of Ryan came about because Romney was being Romney: Hold your finger up to see which way the wind was blowing and use that as a basis for making the decision. Ryan seemed to be the logical choice because the Republican base — ever more right-leaning — didn't really want Romney in the first place. Romney could solve that problem by picking Ryan as his running mate, never mind that it also meant that in doing so he was making himself beholden to the far-right wing of his party. Team Romney is fixated on election day, November 6, and not on the days that follow. But it's those days that are the most important.
Ryan Could End Up as the Stealth President
Ryan is not only someone who can deliver the winning votes for Romney. Unlike Sarah Palin four years earlier, he actually has some substance. Whatever one may think about this man from Wisconsin, he won't be someone Romney can easily ignore. Ryan stands for economizing, lowering taxes and dramatically changing the underpinnings of the American social state.
Mitt Romney challenges Barack Obama for the White House; infographics illustrate the candidates and their positions relative to one another, showing what America's problems are and who is ahead in individual states.
In contrast to Romney, Ryan doesn't just say things — he also tells people what his own principles are. When Obama, facing a hostile congress a year ago was on the verge of making a deal toward balancing the budget, Ryan voted against it. Why? Because Obama's proposal ended lower taxes on the wealthy. That was enough for Ryan to turn thumbs down on the proposal and see it die. The ultraconservative from Wisconsin doesn't intend to stand idly by while Romney vacillates between political poles and waters down the Republican message.
Thus the Romney/Ryan ticket could easily become a Ryan/Romney administration. While that might be historically unlikely, it's by no means new. Recall that the power-conscious Dick Cheney had such a powerful pull on the reins of power in the George W. Bush administration that he was considered to be secret boss in the White House.
Paul Ryan doesn't have to bully his way to power like Cheney did. If Republicans win the election, the budget expert can consider himself the real victor. And not only that: In his first weeks in office, Mitt Romney will be desperately in need of his vice president's assistance after he finally has to deal with those problems he could just previously comfortably criticize his predecessor for — such as when the statutory debt limit is reached and a Republican president has to raise it.
A powerful faction like the tea party within the Republican ranks would be unlikely to stab a budget hawk like Paul Ryan in the back. With the historically often liberal Mitt Romney, one can't be so certain. But the support of the party's right wing will come at a price, and sooner or later, Romney will have to pay it.