The final three: We can say with a high degree of confidence that Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick has largely come down to three men: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. And it’s more than possible that Romney has already made up his mind. All three VP finalists bring something different to the table. Pawlenty is the loyal outsider, who would enable a Romney-Pawlenty ticket to run as former governors vowing to take on Washington; Pawlenty also potentially would add some blue-collar appeal to the ticket. Portman would be the insider, someone who knows the ways of Washington and who could help govern starting on Day 1. And Ryan would be the crusader, who wants to substantially transform America’s entitlement programs and who would excite a good portion of the GOP’s conservative base.
We can't know how accurate these predictions are (and the Weekly Standard goes out on a limb and says Chris Christie is a fourth possibility), but let's consider them gospel for the purposes of this post.
Ryan, of course, would be my dream pick. I've railed against federal government overreach most of my adult life, and Paul Ryan is the most articulate and passionate advocate of fiscal sanity to come along in ages. Choosing him would be the way for Romney to signal he isn't just spewing political BS when he talks about reining in Washington (I almost wrote "reigning," which would have been a doozy of a Freudian slip).
A Ryan pick would have three possible results, however, only one of them good.
One is that he picks Ryan and the ticket loses. I will be depressed for months, but at least I will know the voters had a clear choice when they went to the polls. Maybe you'll get lucky, and I'll be so despondent I'll quite beating the cut-spending dead horse.
Two is that the ticket wins, and Romney makes Ryan his point man for reforming the tax code and changing our basic concepts of what the federal government should do. This is the dream scenario for my dream candidate.
But my nightmare scenario would be that Romney-Ryan wins, and Romney wastes Ryan on the usual VP crap. We will have lost the most fiscally responsible member of Congress and blown perhaps the last chance we have to pull back from the coming economic collapse.
Pawlenty or Portman would be the safer picks, the conventional wisdom says, Portman the safest of all, and Romney is a cautions man. He and Obama are neck and neck, so he doesn't have to take a game-changing swing for the fences the way John McCain did. Maybe. But a Ryan pick would be bold in a more conventional way, if that makes sense, and I'd like to think Romney has at least a little bit of adventure in him.