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Ryan Or Rubio For President?

Paul Ryan may be the most useful Republican House member in decades when it comes to domestic policy, but I think that Ryan (based on the tax plan in his original Roadmap) is fatally flawed as a presidential candidate.  If someone has a good rebuttal to the math in the link, I'd love to see it.

I'm impressed by Rubio's rhetoric (usually), but a presidential candidate who is a state legislator turned Senator with less than a year of service is a problem for several reasons.  Republicans need a more politic plan for a sustainable budget than anything Ryan has offered, and need a candidate with a record of executive competence so the public will be reassured that the person offering these radical-sounding (if gradual) changes isn't some ideological fantasist who doesn't know how to implement policy in a responsible way.

So you say that Obama is a state legislator turned freshman Senator and he is now President.  Sure, but, on policy, the Republican challenge in 2012 is almost the reverse of Obama's challenge in 2008.  Obama basically ran by promising everything to everybody at the low, low price of some tax increases on the top 2% of earners.  His lack of a record helped because he hadn't been in the Senate to vote for a bunch of tax increases (or against tax cuts he now said he wanted to keep) and defense cuts.

Republicans, if they are to be at all responsible, are going to have to offer a plan for fiscal consolidation that will touch the lives of tens of millions.  It isn't going to sound good.  It is going to sound disruptive and scary.  The Republicans will have to convince the marginal voters that the Republican plan is preferable to the combination of tax increases and centralized health care cuts that will come if Obama is reelected.  This is why a record of maintaining core government services while cutting spending down to a sustainable level would be a key asset for a 2012 Republican presidential candidate.

Run Bobby Run.

Yeah, I know it is a one-in-who-knows-what-astronomical-number chance.

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 4 Comments

I understand the critique of the Ryan plan, but still think it is the most fiscally hawkish plan that can be sold to the public just now. We need to get the ball rolling, a budget that actually cuts all that must be cut is not politically feasible just yet. My sense is that Ryan understands that his plan is a necessary first step.

That said, the way to move the republic in the right direction is to criticize his plan for being too squishy.

Richard, I doubt anything I say will have any influence with anybody (in the sense of getting people to adopt my policy preferences), but I think that one way to move to a better politics would be for the Republicans to have a better plan (especially on Medicare and health care policy generally) than the one Ryan put out. IMHO this would including incorporating the best ideas of Josh Barro on funding levels and James Capretta on the structuring of defined contribution Medicare. I'm not sure that a discourse of squishy vs. non-squishy is helpful here. People who are worried that they will lose their health care under the Ryan PTP won't be reassured because some conservatives are attacking Ryan for spending too much.

That doesn't mean there isn't a lot to like in the Ryan PTP. It is much more rooted in reality than anything President Obama has put out and it started (for a moment) a conversation about what a reformed Medicare from the center-right would look like. It should go without saying that I admire Ryan more than all but a tiny number of politicians.

Here are two traps the Republicans need to avoid on entitlement/health care reform.

1. That they will decide that it is all too complicated and tough and confine themselves to few sentences on the subject before moving to something else. That is basically what McCain did in 2008.

2. That they will stick with the Ryan PTP, weaknesses and all, as a kind of orthodoxy, but defend the plan with less skill than Ryan and go down in flames.

This is not even getting into the political problems that would be caused by a discussion of the tax provisions of the original Roadmap.

Pete. Fair enough. I am sure there are many ways it could be somewhat better, some of which might even make it easier to sell. But I think my larger point stands about what can be proposed just now.

The advantage of Ryan, compared to anyone else I have seen thus far, is that he would be able to respond in a way McCan in could not. McCain did not understand his own plan or, I fear, the principles involved.

Richard, we mostly don't disagree on any of that.

You are right that the Ryan plan represents the rightmost (least amount of spending/least direct government spending) proposal that can get a hearing, though I fear it is not one that can win the argument at general election time. If it is the rightmost pole in our debate, then it is serving a good purpose. Though I think that, at the margin, it is better to try to push Republican politicians in the direction of improving the Ryan PTP along the lines suggested by Barro and Capretta rather than trying to shift the Overton window by criticizing the PTP from the right.


Ryan is far better than McCain on domestic policy, but some of the policies that he has proposed set him up for a devastating counterattack and he doesn't have a record as a political executive to fall back on to show that he is a reasonable, responsible guy who will do all the good he promises while avoiding the harms that his opponents claim he will do. While Ryan would be far preferable to McCain (faint praise that), I can think of at least three Republicans (Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, and Bon McDonnell), who could, with some preparation, do about as well and have the flexibility to offer different plans while pointing to their executive experience.

Yeah, I know none of them are running for President, so I'm just grinding my teeth and calling them like I see them.

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