Talk of Paul Ryan maybe running for President seems to be all over Fox News today. Here are my thoughts:
1. Ryan’s original Roadmap proposal has huge political problems on the taxation side. He seems to have proposed a middle-class tax increase with sharp tax cuts for high earners. That would be fatal weakness.
2. The Medicare provisions of Ryan’s Path To Prosperity are very problematic. Medicare reform is crucially important, but Republicans will need a more prudent plan. There are better alternatives.
3. The kind of changes we need are best sold by an executive with a record of competent and humane fiscal consolidation. Ryan’s lack of executive experience is a political weakness in a way that Obama’s wasn’t.
4. A worse than expected Ryan showing could discredit Ryan’s ideas and the cause of conservative reformism in general. And we can’t spare Ryan. There is no one like him in Congress. Having his political career flame out because he did worse than expected in the Iowa Caucuses would be a disaster for the center-right and the country.
5. Ryan is better off as either the foil to a reelected Obama or the architect of reform in case of a Republican victory than as a defeated presidential candidate.
1. Ryan has a combination of principle, eloquence, thoughtfulness, and attention to policy detail that is miles beyond any of the other Republicans running for President. Some might match him along one or two of those dimensions, but as a complete package, it isn’t even close.
2. Ryan’s proposals have serious problems, but he is on the right track. A Ryan candidacy could popularize what is right about his ideas so that other politicians might later pick up where he left off with more prudent versions of Ryan’s proposals. Republicans are looking at a glut of strong potential presidential candidates in 2016 (Jindal, Christie, Bob McDonnell, Marco Rubio), but we can’t expect them to move public opinion all at once and all by themselves. We need to familiarize public opinion with issues like defined contribution Medicare and moving toward consumer-oriented health care reform. Look at what Ron Paul did for paleolibertarianism. Ryan could, on a bigger scale, be the evangelist for Yuval Levin-style conservative reformism.