Ryan is their insurance that a President Romney won't revert to the moderate Massachusetts governor who engineered the model for Obamacare and signed one of the toughest assault-gun laws in the country. They want Ryan to play the same oversized role that Dick Cheney played as vice president to George W. Bush.
Ryan's being a Wisconsin congressman also could help Romney win that state. That calculation, however, factors in Gov. Scott Walker's win in June's recall election, but ignores that Wisconsin remains divided on Walker's taking away state workers' collective-bargaining rights.
Whether Ryan was chosen under pressure or not, his candidacy removes any doubt that voters have a clear choice to make in November. Given their distinctly different views, the candidates shouldn't waste any more time trying to define each other. Instead, they should be more specific about what they want to do.
That is especially true of Romney, who has left gaps in his tax plan that have led to accusations that he wants to rob the middle class of tax breaks such as the mortgage-interest deduction and education credits so the rich can get the same tax-rate cut he is promising everyone else. President Obama says the rich can afford to pay at a higher rate.
By choosing Ryan, Romney is tacitly saying he agrees with the federal budget largely written by the House Budget Committee chairman, which broadly applied spending cuts to vital government programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. Will Romney run on Ryan's earlier proposal to replace Medicare with a voucher system? How about Ryan's idea to trim Social Security costs by cutting payments to recipients?
Ryan now denies that he endorses Ayn Rand's philosophy, although he once gave his congressional staff copies of her Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents. His view of a less intrusive government sure seems to comport with Rand's belief that man shouldn't "subordinate his life to the welfare of others." Is that Romney's view, too?
It's a very different view from the New Deal crafted by FDR; a very different view from the philosophy that produced unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; a very different view from what Obama has presented as his. Voters will decide which view they prefer.