With the release of his long term budget plan â€œThe Path to Prosperityâ€ there is no doubt that Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan is not only the talk of the town in Washington, but also the talk of cable news, YouTube, the blogosphere, my house, the White House, and probably even the Keebler Elfâ€™s tree house (though I canâ€™t quite get a read on how they lean politically). The fact that he has dominated the discussion across the Country for the last few days canâ€™t be argued. I would take it a step further though. I would argue that Paul Ryan is the most significant Republican in America and will remain so through 2012, and that includes the eventual Republican Presidential nominee.
Exhibit #1 in making this case starts with the obvious; he has replaced talk with an actual plan. The American people know what instinct tells all humans, when you are facing a problem you need a plan solve it. While literally no one deemed the release of the Obama administrations budget last month a problem solving strategy, compared to mere words in the ether from Republicans the contrast required to reveal the extent of its weakness was nonexistent. Without contrast your position is without strength. Fundamentally this is the advantage the Ryan plan has now given Republicans.
To grasp the undeniable importance of contrast you need not look any further than the mind-boggling results of a Pew Research Center poll taken a month ago (March 8-14, 2011-m.o.e. +/- 3). The question was asked, â€œWho has the better approach to the budget deficit: Barack Obama, the Republicans in Congress, or is there not much difference at all?â€ To this 20% said â€œObamaâ€, 21% said â€œRepublicans in Congressâ€, while a hard to fathom 52% responded â€œnot much difference at allâ€. This is the ugly face of no leadership, and a complete repudiation of a Republican posture that, until a few days ago, spent months launching rhetoric into the discussion and not answers into the heart of the problem.
It is not so much that the Republican approach garnered only 21% approval, but after two years on an issue that upwards of 75% agree is a significant problem to have 52% not know that your approach is discernible from the Presidents is near criminal. Without leadership you have no solutions, without solutions from either side you have no distinction between the sides, thus leaving no advantage. To be exact, you get left with 52% who find you and your opponent interchangeable…not to mention a lot of work to do. The fact that, while others sat idle, his leadership has yielded a plan bold and realistic enough to supply the contrast needed to do this work is the first piece of evidence to support my claim that Paul Ryan sits atop the Republican mountain.
The work of moving polls like the one above will be focused on one, or I should say 33, targets. As shown by the current debate on this yearâ€™s spending, without a majority in the Senate a long term debt solution simply cannot be had. While you surely need the White House, holding the pen at the very end of the process does you no good. Make no mistake, the rubber meets the road for this entire clash in 33 Senate seat elections, and who will vicariously play a role in all? You guessed itâ€¦ here is how.
It is not a reach to declare that the issue dwarfing all others in these 33 races will be spending and the deficit, nor is it so to assume that all Republicans Senatorial candidates will be running either directly on the Ryan budget plan, or on one closely derived from it. This means that on what will be the central issue of the election cycle, Paul Ryan has single-handedly created the agenda that Republicans nationwide will take to the voters. If the dynamics of this sound familiar it is because in many ways Ryan and his â€œThe Plan for Prosperityâ€ mirror Newt Gingrich and â€œThe Contract with Americaâ€. In both cases one person, and more accurately, one document will be the unified cause of the Party. As this scenario unfolds Ryan will be this causeâ€™s primary spokesman, and his performance in articulating and selling the plan will have a gigantic impact on all 33 Senate races. This task could not be in better hands. His unique ability as a spokesman leads to the final and least obvious point in proving that Paul Ryanâ€™s star has fully risen.
You need not follow his career long to see that he is a different animal than most on the Hill. His grasp of fiscal issues and their individual numbers is stunning, and comes from an unusual childhood that saw him reading budgets in his early teens. Watching him in an interview setting leave talking points and party line generalizations behind in favor of using specific numbers to make his points is beyond both impressive and refreshing. The combination of this ability, his youth, and his willingness to apply his knowledge to doggedly pursue solutions in a world where most politicians settle for far less, could influence the next breed of leaders. If you think this is a stretch you must have forgotten how Bill Gates once made, of all things, it suddenly cool to be a â€œcomputer geekâ€. If this unlikelihood is possible itâ€™s hard to argue that the same thing being done for â€œpolicy wonkâ€ is outside the realm.
When considering all the evidence, the limb that one stands on in making the proclamation that he is the most significant Republican in the Country starts looking more like a sturdy branch. He is the creator of, the point man on, and the Partyâ€™s best spokesman for, the agenda of the central issue in the upcoming election cycle. While floundering for the previous two years Republicans succeeded only in proving that defending a philosophy is no substitute for fighting for a plan. His â€œPath to Prosperityâ€ has armed the Republican Party with the ability to contrast themselves from their opponent. In fact, as it has played out, ultimate victory on this issue for Conservatives is defined by a President signing into law a form of the Ryan plan, case closed.
The next move now belongs to the Democrats, whose offering of a counter proposal later this week will be the inevitable showdowns final precursor. The coming weeks will be fascinating as the release of their plan will finally leave us with both combatants fully armored, with the walls sliding closed behind them, and each in plain view of the other. At long last both political parties will have their gladiators inside the coliseum…may the best idea win.