His running mate offers Romney the opportunity to explain to Americans that they have a choice between national stagnation and renewal.
Mitt Romney did much more this weekend than announce a running mate. He unveiled a significant change in strategy. The 2012 election is now a choice, not just a referendum.
Conservatives have spent much of this summer reassuring themselves. They've pointed out the extraordinary sums President Obama has thrown at crippling Mr. Romney. They've noted how ugly and brutal those attacks have been. They've comforted themselves that, for all the smears, Mr. Romney is within a few points of the incumbent in national tracking polls.
Yet the same can be said on the other side. The economy is teetering, the deficit exploding, the nation unhappy with his signature legislation. Daily, Mr. Romney beats the White House with these failures. But he has barely moved the polling dial.
Mr. Romney's choice of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, one of the party's star reformers, is an attempt to break out of the stalemate, change the dynamic. It was foremost a shrewd acknowledgment on Mr. Romney's part that his path to the White House is going to take more than pointing out the obvious. He needs to run on bold ideas, as Mr. Ryan has, and convince Americans those ideas are the way to prosperity.
In fairness, the Romney campaign had the elements in place. It's taken some time, but Mr. Romney today is sporting a fairly bold reform agenda, from his tax cuts to his Medicare reforms, to his vow to end ObamaCare. And the candidate has been dutifully repeating that this election is a choice between two very different futures for the country. Yet his policy and his words were largely lost amid his campaign's intense focus on the president.
Mr. Ryan provides the crucial shift in emphasis, the opportunity to go on offense. We will now have a focus on, and explanation of, the choice between stagnation and renewal. This is what Mr. Ryan excels at—not just crafting ideas, but explaining them in a positive and serious way. This ability is why the congressman—despite his supposedly extremist reform blueprint and budget (says the left)—has continued to win a district that in 2008 went for Mr. Obama.