April 5, 2011

Found - a Playground Presidential Candidate?

Hatched by Dafydd

In a previous post, the Playground President, we explored the possibility that one way to shake up the 2012 election and likely even beat the incrumbent Barack H. Obama was for the GOP to nominate someone out of the blue. I used the analogy of a basketball phenom who comes, not via the normal route of high school and college, but as a complete unknown from the playground.

I described the possible "playground candidate" thus:

  • Type I: People who are already famous in a field outside of politics.
  • Type II: the ultra-rich celebrity candidate who can self-fund his own campaign and don't need no steenkin' donors.
  • Finally, there is Type III: the successful businessman who isn't a huge celebrity, but who exudes an odor of quiet fiscal competence.

I should have (but didn't) consider one variation on Type III: A successful politician who has, however, never been seriously considered as one of the "usual suspects," the pool where presidential candidates normally spawn.

Steven Hayward of Power Line -- who also occasionally contributes, or so I am told, to some other venue called the National Review, improbably enough -- believes he has found just such a man:

All of this raises the important question: Should [Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI, 96%)] run for President? Right now everyone is saying the Republican field is "lackluster" or boring. I don't happen to agree. I'm a fan of both [former Minnesota Gov. Tim] Pawlenty and [Indiana Gov. Mitch] Daniels. (I've seen Pawlenty in person lately and thought he was quite good, and getting better by the day.) But to the extent there is any truth to this, Ryan looks like the one person who could electrify the Republican electorate, appeal to independent voters, and sustain an argument against Obama that would make for a decisive election.

Ryan is young, has young children, and has lots of reasons to wait. But one can't choose one's moments in politics. I can imagine a set of circumstances in which his budget proposal gets little traction against White House intransigence, and by the fall the political winds are such that entering the race makes so much sense that he has to do it. And increasingly he looks to me like the single best candidate the Republicans could field next year.

So how does Ryan stack up as a modified Type III playground candidate? Here are some of the criteria I listed:

Note that Type III only plays well in an election that is (nearly) all about the economy -- like 2012.

Yep, sounds about right.

He would have to be seen as fiscally conservative and socially middle of the road; seen as a uniter (whether he turns out to be isn't relevant to the election itself); a non-ideologue; and definitely not a flamboyant, larger than life personality -- that's Type II, not Type III.

I believe Ryan exemplifies all these attributes so perfectly, we might as well paste his mug under the dictionary entry for playground president, if any dictionary would deign to list such an entry. (Oh, you know what I mean.)

He would have to be staggeringly wealthy but not too famous (else he falls into the Type II "Donald Trump" category instead).

This is where "modified" comes into play: Ryan is not, of course, "staggeringly wealthy;" he would have to get people to donate to his campaign. Call that a strike against him being a playground candidate.

He would have to come from the financial sector, not simpy an industrialist or technologist, like T.J. Rodgers (Cypress Semiconductor) or Bill Gates (Microsoft); his entire selling point would be that he can fix the economy.

Here is a bit of Ryan's curriculum vitae from Wikipedia:

Born and raised in Janesville, Wisconsin, Ryan graduated from Miami University and worked as a marketing consultant and an economic analyst. In the late 1990s he worked as an aide to United States Senator Bob Kasten, a legislative director for Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, and a speechwriter for former Congressman, and Vice Presidential Nominee Jack Kemp of New York....

Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he has advocated for his Roadmap for America, a long-term spending reduction proposal which has received mixed endorsement from his party.

(The late Jack Kemp, longtime advocate of the economics of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School, earned the nickname "Mr. Supply-Side" for his evangelism for that economic philosophy; he is probably the man who persuaded Ronald Reagan to cut taxes, reduce spending (to the extent that was possible), attack inflation, and streamline regulations.)

I'd say that's equivalent to a businessman coming from the financial sector. Back to my own criteria for playground candidates:

He would have to be statesmanlike but not come across as a political insider (else nobody would trust him).


Alas, I'm sorry to say that I suspect the next GOP candidate will have to be a white male with a Western European sounding name. Obama represented a breakthrough milestone -- the first serious black presidential candidate; and typically after such a bold result, voters retreat to the tried and true, especially when the "other" is viewed as a fatally flawed president, wildly partisan and stunningly inexperienced... which Obama is increasingly viewed as on both left and right.

His name is Paul Ryan (not Bunyan) for goodness' sake; and here's his head shot:

Paul Ryan

I believe Hayward makes a very convincing case that Ryan would shake up the race more than any other proposed Republican candidate; read his post yourselves and let me know what you think.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2011, at the time of 2:59 AM


The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

I read Hayward's article a few days ago, and I agree except for one thing: We need Ryan to do WHAT he is doing, WHERE he is doing it! To lead America out of the mess we are in is going to take more than a successful President, it is going to take a Legislature which is profoundly different than those of the last few decades. Paul Ryan can be one of those historical figures who defines the Legislative Branch; IF his is successful.

Right now you want to elevate him because he has a great idea, and presents it amazingly well. Fair enough. But if he's to press these ideas through as President, he has to show that he can lead well enough to get them passed through the House, and then beat the Senate into submission. That will take public pressure, pressure that will only help WHOMEVER the Republican candidate will be. We don't know yet whether Mr. Ryan CAN lead this budget through to becoming Law. It will take an effort to lead the entire Nation towards the goal in order to overcome Harry Reid and President Obama... if he can do that, he'll become a proven success and we can think about the rest.

Paul Ryan is a bit of a hero of mine, but let's let him successfully lead the Legislative Branch through the budget process. We need that as a Country more than we need him as President.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2011 6:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: Milhouse

Ryan has one huge flaw: he has no executive experience. What he needs to do is spend this term and the next making headlines as "Mr Budget", then either go for Speaker or else take a job in the administration elected in 2012, perhaps Treasury Secretary or OMB director; or else, if Scott Walker decides not to run for a second term in Wisconsin (having perhaps been lured to Washington), Ryan should run for that. Once he's got a term or two as governor or cabinet secretary under his belt, he should start thinking about the presidency.

The above hissed in response by: Milhouse [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2011 7:47 AM

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