Though I agree that Paul Ryan’s inclusion in the GOP primary field would improve the debate and give the Republican party a national platform on which to display its young star, I think the prospect for such a candidacy has been overtaken by events.
There have been good arguments both for and against, but over at the American Spectator, W. James Antle nails it:
Second, Ryan’s credibility as a fiscal conservative will be tarnished. He voted for TARP. He not only voted for but was instrumental in passing Medicare Part D…. He has been an advocate for spending agreements that have been criticized by Tea Party activists and supported a debt deal the entire GOP field save Jon Huntsman opposed. He is running against Republicans — Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul — who will not hesitate to point all of this out.
One key to winning the 2012 presidential elections for Republicans will be to nominate someone that cannot be saddled with House Republicans’ unpopularity or–in the form of Paul Ryan himself–policy positions that double as easy Democratic attack ads. One of the reasons the candidates thus far have not exactly embraced Ryan’s Medicare proposal is that it is easily demagogued. President Obama would love nothing more than to run against Ryan. He may try to anyway, but it will be tougher if he’s not actually running against Ryan.
The GOP nominee is going to have to show his independence from Congress (something Bachmann, obviously, cannot do). Additionally, as Antle points out, if Ryan runs he’ll be criticized from the right by Perry and Bachmann (and some of the second-tier candidates). Imagine that spectacle: Paul Ryan getting hammered for not being conservative enough or fiscally responsible enough.
Ryan could elevate the policy debate and minimize the rhetorical excess that often finds its way into the contest. But I don’t think Ryan has much of a chance for the nomination or the presidency, and the primary season could quite brutally drive a wedge between Ryan and the party’s base—a conflict I sense the party would like to avoid.