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Ryan pick focuses GOP campaign on the big issues

The crowd cheers Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney his running mate Paul Ryan Sunday WaukeshWis.  |  Mary Altaffer~AP

The crowd cheers Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, on Sunday in Waukesha, Wis. | Mary Altaffer~AP

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Updated: September 15, 2012 6:07AM

If Mitt Romney fails to be elected president, the summer of 2012 will be recalled as the beginning of the end, a sultry season of mudslinging by forces aligned with President Barack Obama that poisoned the Republican’s standing with voters. If Romney is successful in winning the White House, the summer will go down as a low point in his campaign that was turned around with his selection of the young, energetic, articulate, principled, economics expert Paul Ryan as his running mate.

That’s not to say that Romney’s vice presidential pick would be responsible for winning this bloc of voters or that state. The anointing of a running mate almost never helps decide a presidential election. Usually it can only hurt the candidate if the choice turns out to become an issue in the campaign — think Democrat Tom Eagleton in 1972 and his history of mental therapy or Sarah Palin in 2008 and the perception that she was uninformed about important policy.

What Romney’s selection of Ryan constituted was a bid to return the campaign to the big issues — the poorly performing economy, unsustainable government spending, deficits driving the country toward bankruptcy, entitlement programs on a course to fail the elderly and poor they’re supposed to help — and away from the dirty small ball of Obama’s friends aimed at keeping the conversation away from his failed policies.

Smear is the only word for the gutter politics of Obama’s allies. A new level of bottom-feeding came in an ad by the pro-Obama SuperPAC Priorities USA insinuating Romney was responsible for the death of the wife of a laid-off worker at a steel plant Bain Capital had tried to save. Her death from cancer came years after Romney had left Bain. No Obama ally repudiated the ad. In what would have been parody had it not been so reprehensible, Democratic National Committee chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she had “no idea the political affiliation of folks” at that outfit — though it’s headed by former White House official Bill Burton.

The Ryan choice had the immediate effect of elevating the campaign because of his work on tax and entitlement reform. Reforming and simplifying the 73,000-page tax code and ending its myriad loopholes, special-interest perks and lobbyist-written giveaways would invigorate the economy. Millions of young workers, Hispanics, blacks, women and men in heavy industry left jobless or underemployed by Obama’s failures could find jobs.

The Ryan pick holds risks in his advocacy of entitlement reform. Expect Obama and Democrats to resort to lies accusing Romney and Ryan of wanting to gut Medicare. The truth is Ryan’s proposed changes in Medicare would not take one penny from anyone now in Medicare or anyone who will be joining it for the next 10 years.

Romney could counter the Mediscare falsehoods by pointing to the $700 billion in Medicare cuts already made by Obama. And he should emphasize the devastating consequences for seniors of Obama’s bankrupt economic policies. Many retirees had hoped to be able to live in large measure off the interest on their life savings. Yet with interest rates barely above zero they have no alternative but to dip into their principal — their golden years being threatened by the fool’s gold of Obama’s policies and promises.

Romney’s choice of Ryan as his running mate returns the debate to the here-and-now pocketbook concerns of Americans struggling to keep above water in the Obama economy.

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