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Paul Ryan's Vulnerabilities

Are they any worse than Romney's or Perry's?

12:21 PM, Aug 19, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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A potential Paul Ryan presidential run has sparked a lot of enthusiasm among conservatives who are depressed with a weak Republican field. But it has also prompted some conservatives to voice concerns about Ryan's path to the GOP nomination and victory in the general election--and what failure in either contest would mean for Ryan and his cause.

Paul Ryan

I'll try to respond to the Ryan skeptics' arguments one at a time.

1. Ed Morrissey writes that Ryan's lack of executive experience will hurt him: "The fumbles of Obama will allow Republicans to argue that his failed presidency results in part from his inability to handle executive power, but we can’t make that argument at the same time that we’re offering a candidate who has never held executive office in any context at all." 

The case against Obama isn't that he's an inexperienced liberal--it's that he's a conventional and committed liberal. How would a liberal with executive experience have governed differently than Obama? The 44th president has actually been quite effective at implementing his preferred policies. But liberalism--Obamacare, stimulus spending, "leading from behind"--just doesn't work.

So one of the most important jobs of a president is to enact good policies. That requires intelligence, sound judgment and principles, the ability to persuade, courage, and character. Real leadership, as opposed to executive experience, is what matters. And with his budget, Ryan has led on economic growth, spending, and health care--the central issues in American politics in 2012--as much or more than any other politician in America. 

One needn't sign bills into law as a governor to be a leader. After all, one-term former congressman and failed Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln did not have any executive experience when he was nominated in 1860. But he did lead on the most pressing issue of the day by proving in the Lincoln-Douglas debates to be the most persuasive opponent of the expansion of slavery.

I'm not putting Ryan on the same pedestal as our nation's finest president, but Lincoln clearly shows that one doesn't need to be a CEO or a governor to be a good president. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush were all governors. And yet all four were very different presidents. The reason Carter was the worst isn't because he didn't have as much experience as the others. It's because he was the most liberal.

2. Allahpundit doubts that Ryan has a path to the nomination:

What makes Ryan significantly different from, oh, say, Tim Pawlenty? They’re both young, smart, soft-spoken midwestern conservatives. Pawlenty had the added advantages of eight years of executive experience and, unlike Ryan, no TARP vote to his record for his opponents to use against him. And he ended up flatlining in Iowa five months before the caucuses. Ryan’s advantage, of course, is that he’s hugely respected on the right among both the grassroots and the establishment for his boldness in pushing entitlement reform. [...]

Beyond that, where’s he getting the money to compete with Bachmann in Iowa, Romney in New Hampshire, and Perry in South Carolina? [...]

Who’s more electable: Sixtysomething former governor Mitt Romney and his message of jobs and economic growth or fortysomething-going-on-25 congressman Paul Ryan and his message of overhauling grandma’s benefits (which of course isn’t actually his message)?

The difference between Ryan and Pawlenty isn't just that Ryan has boldly pushed for entitlement reform. Ryan is a charismatic and authentic conservative, while presidential candidate Pawlenty was not. Ryan might not knock every speech out of the park, but sometimes he does.

He's even better when he's talking to constituents at town hall meetings. This spring he held 18 of them in his district and took questions on just about every issue under the sun. While Ryan is known in Washington for being super-wonky, he connected with average voters by answering every question clearly and concisely. There's a reason why Ryan ran 17 points ahead of John McCain in a midwestern swing district in 2008.

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