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A Ryan flashback: Play forward the what if game



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Ryan
August 14, 2012 | 03:02 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following column first appeared in the Regional News April 4, 2011. While the subject matter is putting the cart before the horse, it nonetheless seemed timely.

Wisconsin's own Paul Ryan could be president some day.

Whether he should be president is a different matter — but as far as viability is concerned, look at the facts:

The Republicans are looking for a fresh face. Mitt Romney is wooden. Newt Gingrich is old hat. Donald Trump is a joke. The Tea Party leaning candidates probably can't pull enough of the moderate voters needed to win. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty? Doubtful. So, that leaves the Republican Party with ... nobody.

Enter Paul Ryan at just the right time.

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Over the last couple of years, his star has been on the rise. Just recently he shot up to the could-be-President level by becoming the poster boy for the Republican budget strategy.

It comes at a time when President Barack Obama isn't selling his leadership style — following instead of leading on Libya, waiting for the Republicans to broach the touchy subjects of Social Security and Medicare. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have privately acknowledged that those two social programs need a revamping, but neither side had the courage to touch the issue — until now.

Americans, right or wrong, believe that something must be done about our economic future. In times of real or perceived crisis, Americans have been willing to accept, even invite, tough medicine — and they won't be any more willing than they are now.

It's all a nice break for Ryan. His long-term budget proposals have been around for awhile, and the Social Security and Medicare aspects were downplayed. Now, it seems, he's taken what might be a small window of opportunity to solidify his credentials.

In addition, Ryan has a clean record and he comes from the Midwest.

He has the look of a President — a strong, Mt. Rushmore-ready face that stands out in a crowd. He's tall and has a presence that's both commanding and approachable and, most of all, self-assured. Like it or not, style matters.

He has political savvy, a sense of timing and an ability to handle the pressure of a national campaign. He's unlikely to make the killer mistake.

He comes across as smart, articulate and reasonable — traits he shares with Obama. A debate between the two would be like a dual between Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks. In fact, I'd love to see it — as it might be a great opportunity for our nation's two differing perspectives to be presented by the two people best able to argue for them.

Yes, Paul Ryan could be President, but it probably won't be in 2012.

Most incumbents get re-elected. As low as Obama's ratings are now, that's typical of mid-term presidents. Already he seems to be drifting toward the center as Bill Clinton did to win a second term. And if the economy comes back and Obama communicates that fact with the electorate, he'll be hard to beat.

Ryan is too smart to enter the fray unless he has a good chance of winning. Being a sacrificial candidate like Bob Dole or Hubert Humphrey is a career killer.

He's (now) only 42, so there's no hurry. But, who knows, if circumstances change — and this is a volatile time — Ryan might be the man for the moment as far as the Republicans are concerned.

In other words, like his political views or not, he's got the makings of a winner.

Halverson is the general manager of the Regional News.

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