Well, The Wall Street Journal didn’t literally endorse Paul Ryan for president. But in their editorial endorsing him to be Mitt Romney’s vice president, it’s pretty clear who they wish were their nominee:
The case for Mr. Ryan is that he best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election. More than any other politician, the House Budget Chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline.
Against the advice of every Beltway bedwetter, he has put entitlement reform at the center of the public agenda—before it becomes a crisis that requires savage cuts. And he has done so as part of a larger vision that stresses tax reform for faster growth, spending restraint to prevent a Greek-like budget fate, and a Jack Kemp-like belief in opportunity for all. He represents the GOP’s new generation of reformers that includes such Governors as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and New Jersey’s Chris Christie.
As important, Mr. Ryan can make his case in a reasonable and unthreatening way. He doesn’t get mad, or at least he doesn’t show it. Like Reagan, he has a basic cheerfulness and Midwestern equanimity.
The WSJ’s editorial comes on the heels of similar Ryan endorsements from National Review’s Rich Lowry and The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol, and as Joan wrote yesterday, this push for Paul Ryan is a problem for Romney’s campaign, forcing him to choose between making Ryan’s plan to end Medicare* a centerpiece of his campaign (in the process losing middle-of-the-road voters) or whether he wants reach for the Etch A Sketch to erase his support for Ryan’s plan (in the process losing his base).
Whomever Romney ends up picking, the fact that he’s being lobbied this heavily to pick Paul Ryan says more about how conservatives feel about Romney than it does anything else. And it’s clear that conservatives don’t see Romney as a person with real conviction. They don’t think he’s capable of winning a presidential election without transplanting his soul, and they think Paul Ryan is the only guy who can do that.
The case they are making for Ryan has nothing to do of demographics or geographical considerations. Nor does it have to do with checking some sort of box—like foreign policy experience—on the GOP ticket’s joint resume. Instead, they are saying that without Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney is nothing more than an empty suit, someone at any given moment will say whatever he thinks is most politically expedient. In their view, Mitt Romney is just a guy who’s running for office, for Pete’s sake.
If they didn’t believe that, they wouldn’t be getting so excited for Paul Ryan. After all, Mitt Romney has repeatedly and enthusiastically supported Ryan’s plan. He’s already on record supporting it. If conservatives thought Mitt Romney was a man they could trust, that would be enough for them. But they do not trust him—and with good reason.
But here’s the thing: even if Mitt Romney does pick Paul Ryan, he’ll still be as untrustworthy as he is today. Picking Ryan might make the conservatives feel good. But if Romney does it, the only reason will be that he decided Ryan was the most expedient decision—the best tactical pick. Because that’s just how Romney rolls.
*Or, to make PolitiFact happy, Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it.