I was quite surprised that Mitt Romney chose Wisconsin U.S. Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate. I was expecting Ohio senator Rob Portman, a steady choice who would appeal to the political center, which Romney must carry to be elected. Both conservatives and liberals lauded the Ryan choice, the former seeing a true conservative and the latter seeing someone they think they can beat. As a Slate magazine headline said, "one camp is very wrong." Within three months, we will know which.
In either event, Romney's choice may be the best thing that has happened to this campaign. Why? As I noted before, so far both candidates have been short on substantive proposals. Ryan, a solid fiscal conservative, has made more recent ones than I've seen from Obama, Biden, and Romney combined - he will tell you exactly what he wants to do with spending and taxes. He, unlike the others, is also a master negotiator, and perhaps more comfortable with working out solutions than either of the presidential candidates.
The immediate reaction on Ryan was not good on the jobs issue. Matthew Yglesias of Slate wrote that "the large jobs deficit built up during that period [is] going to receed [sic] further into the rearview mirror, [since] Romney is essentially conceding that the past 18 months of 150,000 jobs per month are good enough to get Obama re-elected, and he needs to wage a campaign about something bigger, [so] the issue that ought to dominate the campaign is going to fade into obscurity."
I see the opposite. I see the Republican candidates answering questions on jobs, and on the economy, with proposals much more specific than those currently on the Romney website, which, though now having a headline that "Americans deserve more jobs and more take-home pay" and a link to "Mitt's Plan," offers little more than vague ideas such as "give every family access to a great school and quality teachers," shaky promises the likes of "replace Obamacare with real health care reform," and economic errors such as "curtail the unfair trade practices of countries like China" immediately followed by "open new markets for American goods and services."
Watch the Romney campaign website. I expect that within two months it will have a jobs plan with specific proposals and dollar amounts. That will force the Obama campaign to respond in kind. The plans will be, in effect wish lists - both sides will know they will need to negotiate. After the election, which will probably end with the House, Senate, and White House split in some fashion, jobs will be on more and more people's minds. Then we will move from the two starting points to real substance and real debate. That is what we need, whether Ryan is elected or not.