Mitt Romney will have many opportunities over the next three months to demonstrate to voters that they should choose him over Barack Obama: his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, the three presidential debates, major policy addresses, and more. But it may be that nothing will speak louder than his selection of a running mate.
Voters seem to care. In a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, 74 percent of registered voters said the selection of a running mate will matter—48 percent saying it matters “somewhat” and 26 percent saying it matters “a lot.” In a close election, as this one seems likely to be, Romney’s pick could help determine the outcome.
It’s not the first time we’ve said it, but it could well be the last: Go bold, Mitt! Pick Paul Ryan, the Republican party’s intellectual leader, the man who’s laid out the core of the post-Obama policy agenda and gotten his colleagues in Congress to sign on to it. Or pick Marco Rubio, the GOP’s most gifted young politician, the man who embodies what is best about the Tea Party and a vision of a broad-based Republican governing majority of the future. Barack Obama was right about this (if only this): Modern democratic politics is about hope and change. Ryan and Rubio, more than anyone else, embody Republican hopes and conservative change.
But let’s descend from the Olympian heights of national aspiration to the bloody crossroads of practical politics. Here too the case for Rubio or Ryan is compelling.