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Mitt Romney Picks Paul Ryan: Is He the Right Choice?

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Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, a young and energetic conservative best known for his detailed knowledge of all things budget, has been tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate for the 2012 election.

"Mitt's choice for VP is Paul Ryan. Spread the word about America's comeback team," a Romney campaign mobile phone app announced early Saturday morning, hours before Romney introduced Ryan as his vice presidential selection in Virginia. 

Ultimately, Paul Ryan is a smart, politically savvy choice. At age 41, the Grand Old Party needed a bright individual who could appeal to younger voters. Of course, it's also a safe choice. Having spent virtually his entire career in politics, Ryan is a monetary wonk who is respected by those on the right. While he's not a household name or an "outsider who will shake things up," he won't embarrass Mitt Romney. He'll campaign hard, shake the right hands, look sharp and stay on message.

But four years after the Sarah Palin fiasco -- all but John McCain can admit that fact now -- perhaps "safe" is exactly what the Republicans wanted. Fiscal conservative, five-generation Wisconsonite, no-skeletons-in-the-closet past or cheesy reality TV shows in his future.

If you believe long-time Democratic insider James Carville that elections are about "the economy, stupid" then Ryan just may bolster the GOP's chances. Ryan has shot to fame within his party's ranks by countering President Barack Obama with his "Path to Prosperity" budget proposal, which does limit social services for the elderly -- among other things.

Democratic strategists no doubt can't wait to pounce on that, especially as the election campaign runs through key battleground states like Florida. 

Leading up to Saturday's announcement, the other two names on Romney's short list were Gen. David Patreus and Florida Sen. Mark Rubio. From a purely political (and cynical) standpoint, Patreus wasn't the answer. Sure he's a war hero, but for an unpopular war. Patreus would have cemented the military vote, but that's not a voting bloc any Republican really needs to cement. 

Yet Rubio was an intriguing possibility. Romney has his hands full trying to court the highly influential Latino vote, which could decide the election. Rubio would have been a clear sign that the GOP tent is still an inclusive club open to all.

Ryan isn't a bad pick, far from it. If you watch him speak and follow his work, he'll likely impress on the national stage -- maybe even more than Romney. He'll provide very little gossip fodder for the national press, and he's not gaffe-prone like Palin or current vice president Joe Biden.

But is he really enough to help right Romney's teetering campaign ship? Is he just a nice-looking midwesterner who will smile for the cameras and recite budgetary numbers or will he have a true place at the Romney table? If he does, he already has his first order of business: Get his boss to release more tax returns so the Romney/Ryan ticket can move on to bigger and better things.