"Mitt Romney called the Ryan budget ... marvelous," President Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said last Tuesday of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan. "This really is the Ryan-Romney budget."
That was the phrase the Obama campaign wanted every voter to remember coming out of last week: the Ryan-Romney budget.
They want to make it impossible for Romney to pivot to the center once he has secured the Republican nomination. They want to make the 2012 presidential campaign a choice between Obama's vision for the role of government in America, and Ryan's.
Romney should give Obama exactly what he wants. He should choose Ryan as his running mate. If the Ryan budget is going to be the center of the campaign, then why not have its author on the ticket to defend it?
And defend it Ryan has. After Obama called Ryan's budget "thinly veiled social Darwinism" that is "antithetical to our entire history," Ryan fired right back, noting that while others have led by "offering real solutions," Obama "has chosen to distort the truth and divide Americans in order to distract from his failed record."
Ryan's criticism of Obama's rhetoric is dead on. Far from "social Darwinism," the Ryan plan merely returns the federal budget to slightly higher levels of spending than the country experienced under President Clinton. By contrast, Obama's budget spends at rates far above our nation's pos/world/ War II historical average and adds $6.4 trillion to the national debt by 2022 in the process.
Romney could not find a person better prepared to articulate these contrasting visions. No other possible candidate has spent more time challenging Obama face-to-face than Paul Ryan. Just go back and look at the C-SPAN feed from the Blair House Health Care Summit in February 2010. Despite speaking for just under 10 minutes, Ryan stole the show by exposing every last one of Obamacare's spending lies.
He noted, as the Congressional Budget Office has since confirmed, that the true 10-year price tag of Obamacare was north of $2 trillion, not the sub-trillion number Obama was selling to the American people. Ryan called the CLASS Act "a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud;" a fact that Obama's own Department of Health and Human Services has since been forced to acknowledge. And Ryan noted that despite all the trillions Obamacare did spend, it did nothing to fix doctors' Medicare reimbursement payments -- payments which, thanks to Obama's neglect, are set to be cut by one-third come January 1st.
Ryan went on to sum up his dressing-down of Obama, "There really is a difference between us. And it's basically this. We don't think the government should be in control of all of this. We want people to be in control. And that, at the end of the day, is the big difference."
If that message sounds a little familiar, it should. Here is how then-Gov. Ronald Reagan put it almost 50 years ago: "This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves."
There are plenty of other fine candidates Romney could choose as his running mate. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as well as Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. All come from swing states Romney must win to beat Obama in the Electoral College this November.
But none of them have a proven track record of getting under Obama's skin as well as Ryan does.
Conn Carroll is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at ccarroll@ washingtonexaminer.com.