Monday, February 1, 2010

Paul Ryan for President?

Christian Schneider sure thinks it's possible. And I have to agree:
In the 1995 movie “The American President,” Michael Douglas plays Andrew Shepherd, a U.S. President who proudly hails from Wisconsin. In the movie, President Shepherd must choose between supporting a gun control bill and a “pollution reduction bill,” which happens to be the pet cause of his environmental lobbyist girlfriend. (This plot contrivance is only slightly less plausible than Massachusetts voters replacing Ted Kennedy with a Republican best known for showing Cosmopolitan Magazine readers the contents of his underpants.)

Clearly, the idea of a Wisconsin president seems calming to people. For filmmakers, having a character hail from the Dairy State is intended to show that they’re imbued with a common sense wholesomeness – to the nation, Wisconsin folks are grounded, salt-of-the-earth types. (My friends from other states still believe that roads in Wisconsin are only passable via tractor.)

Yet Wisconsin has never birthed a leader of the free world. Republican U.S. Senator “Fighting Bob” LaFollette ran in 1924 as a progressive, garnering 17% of the vote nationwide. Shorewood native William Rehnquist captained the U.S. Supreme Court as Chief Justice for 19 years (a job that’s arguably as important as the presidency, although less impressive to girls at a bar.) Favorite son Tommy Thompson proved to be the Usain Bolt of American politics, starting and finishing his 2008 presidential campaign with world-class speed. (Remind liberals that Dick Cheney actually went to grad school at the UW-Madison, and they’ll flip the table over and run out of the room screaming.)

Yet as 2012 looms, it appears Wisconsin may actually have a viable candidate for the presidency on the horizon. Fiscal dreamboat Paul Ryan has become a star in Congress, leading many national conservative commentators (including Wisconsin’s own Stephen F. Hayes of The Weekly Standard) to hyperventilate about his nationwide appeal. Ryan, who was first elected in 1998 as a 28-year old former legislative staffer, is now the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, and one of the leading voices of opposition to the Obama Administration – a position that appears to be gaining popularity with the American public.

All of this has led to rampant speculation about a Paul Ryan run for the presidency in 2012. There’s plenty of reason to believe that Ryan won’t run. (Such as, the fact that he routinely says “I am not running for President.”) But with a number of the Republican presidential hopefuls looking more like future reality show contestants than leaders of the free world, Ryan’s gravitas and amiable personality may just force him into the race.

As with any presidential campaign, there are pros and cons to a Ryan run. Here’s a list of some of the things that could help and hurt him:

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