Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and vice presidential candidate...

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin greet the crowd in Norfolk, Va. (Aug. 11, 2012) Credit: AP

Mitt Romney just delivered the “severely conservative” ticket he’d been touting since the primaries, with a little help from his friends.

Romney's vice presidential choice, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, 42, is best known as the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the author of the “Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal.”

Dissecting whether Romney’s bizarre slip in introducing Ryan in Virginia as “the next president of the United States” was a run-of-the-mill gaffe or the bizarre channeling of uber-conservative Ryan-lust will be grist for late-night comedy programs.

Romney seems to have calculated that he needed to use the pick to motivate a conservative base that’s always been a bit queasy about him, rather than dedicating the second spot on the ticket to wooing independents. This may be wise, because independents likely won’t decide based on the VP pick, but conservatives may be more motivated to get out and vote for a ticket they feel is more firmly in their corner.

Romney also stayed away from using the slot to try to pick up votes in a large swing state. Experts say vice presidential picks generally add about two percentage points for that ticket in their home states, which isn’t much, but in tight races like Florida or Virginia, might matter.

And he chose not to pick a true rock-star Republican like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, perhaps fearing they would make him look like their opening act. Ryan is perhaps a semi rock star, most beloved by policy wonks.

“Path to Prosperity” is Ryan’s true strength, and his greatest vulnerability. It is far more specific in explaining entitlement and tax issues than anything Romney has put forward. It includes turning Medicare into a voucher program that would likely leave seniors paying a lot more out of pocket, and, in different renditions, has offered an optional flat tax, a value-added tax, elimination of many deductions and a large decrease in rates for the highest payers.

Because the plan looks seriously at our nation’s serious entitlement dilemma, Ryan has been painted as heartless and harsh. But he also deserves a lot of credit for refusing to pretend that massive looming financial problems can be fixed with platitudes and tinkering.

When he hit the podium Saturday he quickly made his role clear. He’s a better speaker than Romney, and he’s going to use that gift to be a relentless attack dog for the Republican ticket, hammering President Barack Obama with smooth one-liners, and deeper digs, delivered well.

This is the second earliest a vice-presidential candidate has ever been announced, according to media reports (John Kerry was the earliest). The timing shows Romney was ready to reset a campaign that had begun to revolve around his unseen tax returns and visible changes in stance over the last 10 years.

And at first blush, with Ryan’s good looks, unshakable conservative bona fides and smooth delivery on view, it looks like a pretty solid move.

There are, in fact, a lot of Republicans who wanted Ryan on a national ticket this year, but most of them wanted him on top of that ticket.

Romney’s botched (but quickly corrected) introduction of Ryan only helped to accentuate that. What this man can bring from the bottom of the ticket is what we’re going to see over the next three months.

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