Morici: Paul Ryan, smart choice by a savvy executive

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and vice Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., at a rally at the Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Va. (Aug. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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

Congressman Paul Ryan complements 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 jobs, because the private sector is despondent. Demand is weak and President Barack Obama won't let America play to its strengths and compete globally. The public sector is bloated. The federal government has runaway deficits exceeding $1 trillion annually.

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.

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.

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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. 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.

Romney's choice is reminiscent of another bold move, John Kennedy's selection of Lyndon Johnson. Then-Sen. Johnson was majority leader in the Senate and added substance to President John F. Kennedy's campaign. More important, just as Lyndon Johnson delivered Texas, picking Ryan puts Wisconsin in play, and that could make all the difference.

According to the Real Clear Politics website compilation of state polls, 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. 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 in play.

If Romney delivers a compelling message on the economy and jobs, and 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. Obama's margin is 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 Romney over the top.

With a robust manufacturing base and history, Ohio voters have a strong affinity toward labor unions, and Gov. John Kasich's failed bid to curb public employee collective bargaining rights is burdening the GOP. However, with unemployment above 7 percent in the Buckeye State, 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.

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However, choosing Ryan puts Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes back in play. If Ryan can deliver the Badger State, Romney will likely become president.

Writer Peter Morici is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. His email address is pmorici@rhsmith.umd.edu

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