Morici: Ryan a Smart Choice by a Savvy Executive

US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announces Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan(L) as his vice presidential running mate during a campaign rally at the Nauticus Museum n in Norfolk, Virginia, August 11, 2012.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announces Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan(L) as his vice presidential running mate during a campaign rally at the Nauticus Museum n in Norfolk, Virginia, August 11, 2012.

Hold your breath America. Governor Mitt Romney has picked a running mate who could make him president.

Congressman Paul Ryan complements Mr. Romney’s private sector expertise wonderfully. He has a clear and concise plan to fix the federal budget, and as I count electoral votes, he could put the man from Massachusetts over the top in what will ultimately be a tight contest.

The U.S. economy isn’t growing and creating enough jobs, because the private sector is despondent—demand is weak and President Obama won’t let America play to its strengths and compete globally—and the public sector is bloated—the federal government has runaway deficits exceeding $1 trillion annually.

Mr. Romney promises to open development of U.S. energy resources, without harm to the environment, and level the playing field on trade with mercantilists like China.

Slashing oil imports and boosting U.S. exports in Asia would increase GDP by $500 billion, create 5 million jobs and get the economy growing at a 4 to 5 percent annual pace.

Mr. Ryan is the principal architect of GOP proposals to fix federal finances and restore some sanity to state budgets by harnessing runaway health care costs.

By offering retiring Americans a choice between traditional Medicare and a subsidy to purchase private insurance, he would put Health and Human Services on the dime to cut costs without reducing benefits, and get U.S. health care performance more in line with competitors like Germany and Japan.

Governors are crying for more control on how they spend Medicaid dollars, because federal mandates are stretching state and local budgets to the breaking point.

Mr. Ryan would send the states block grants and discretion to shape more effective programs.

That would eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy in Washington, improve services to the poor and children, and unshackle America’s governors, who are a heck of a lot more creative than the bureaucrats at HHS.

Mr. Romney’s choice is remindful of another bold move—John Kennedy’s selection of Lyndon Johnson. Then Senator Johnson was majority leader in the Senate and added substance to President Kennedy’s campaign.

More importantly, just as Lyndon Johnson delivered Texas, picking Mr. Ryan puts Wisconsin in play, and that could make all the difference.

According to the Real Clear Politics compilation of state polls, President Obama is well ahead in 19 states and the District of Columbia for a total of 247 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

Governor Romney appears certain to win 23 states with 191 electoral votes. That leaves only Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia at play.

If Governor Romney delivers a compelling message on the economy and jobs, and Congressman Ryan convinces seniors the ticket has answers to runaway Medicare spending that do not threaten them, the GOP candidates should be able to snag Florida, Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina. Mr. Obama’s margin is currently less than 1.5 percent in each of those states.

Of the remaining states, victories in Ohio and Virginia with 18 and 13 electoral votes respectively would put Mr. Romney over the top.With a robust manufacturing base and history,

Ohio voters have a strong affinity toward labor unions, and Governor John Kasich’s failed bid to curb public employee collective bargain rights is burdening the GOP. However, with unemployment still above 7 percent in the Buckeye State, Governor Romney has a decent shot at making his case on jobs.

Virginia has a large number of federal employees and contractors and a growing number of African and Hispanic voters. With unemployment at only 5.7 percent, it could prove very tough for Romney to capture.

However, choosing Mr. Ryan puts Wisconsin with 10 electoral votes back into play. If Mr. Ryan can deliver the Badger State, Mr. Romney will likely become president.

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Peter Morici is a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.