Monday, August 20, 2012

The selection of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate at once introduced a dynamic, thoughtful young leader to the nation at large and focused much of the substance and geography of the presidential campaign.   Iowans can take note and heart in the pending nomination of a Midwest native son for this high office.  This decision and the process that led to it likewise speak volumes about Gov. Romney.  His proper priority was selecting someone qualified from Day One to be a value-added vice president and to serve as president if required.

After his election 14 years ago, Paul Ryan made a strong first impression as a knowledgeable, principled and purposeful congressman.  He earned and has kept the respect of Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.  He is a “go to” leader on the most critical issue of our time —­ wrenching down the trajectory of out-of-control federal government spending.  As vice president, Paul Ryan would be a force at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Paul Ryan’s work ethic, clear-eyed focus and understated demeanor are in synch with Gov. Romney’s leadership strengths and personal modesty. America needs a president and vice president with those attributes, and who think strategically about growing our economy for this and the next generation, a cohort with which Ryan can relate.

Politically, Paul Ryan helps Gov. Romney in the Great Lakes region and Upper Midwest.  How does he help? It goes beyond being the only true Midwesterner on either ticket, though Gov. Romney’s state of birth, Michigan, comes close. Paul Ryan grew up in Wisconsin being of Irish and German ancestry. He has lived-time honored Midwestern, family, and Roman Catholic values. Ryan enjoys the outdoors with his wife Janna and three young kids, and loves to hike, hunt and fish.  He will be “at home” every time he visits Iowa.

Congressman Ryan represents the Janesville area of southeastern Wisconsin, just north of Rockford, Ill., and 100 miles east of Dubuque.  Janesville reminds me of my home area of Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa; the local economy centers on manufacturing, agriculture, small business and a little tourism mixed with history.  Janesville was hammered in 2010 by the shutdown of a huge General Motors truck factory where my Chevy Tahoe was built.  The impact was similar to the Maytag shutdown in Newton, only larger.

People around Janesville have known for some time the answer to their problems is not a larger, omnipresent federal government, now with a $16 trillion debt. They first elected Paul Ryan in 1998 with 57 percent of the vote.  Since then, while a Republican and a Democrat each won the White House, he was re-elected with 67, 65 and 64 percent respectively.  In non-presidential years, he won re-election with 67, 63 and 68 percent, the latter in 2010. It sure appears voters in neighboring Wisconsin like Paul Ryan.  I believe voters in Waterloo, Dubuque, Davenport, Cedar Rapids and across Iowa will, too.  Bring on the vice presidential debate.

That said, Iowans and voters nationwide will think most about the top of the ticket. I’ve long felt one can learn a lot about how someone will govern and manage by closely watching how effectively he or she leads a campaign.

Gov. Romney has shown us something meaningful— a VP process as excellent as his pick.  His decision-making was deliberate, even dignified. There was no drama, no awkward “finalist” photo-ops, no leaks, no lofty rhetoric, and no 11th-hour decision. There was sensitivity and respect for other people — all who were considered and the one asked to serve. How refreshing.  

This important, wise choice reflects well on Gov. Romney. We can similarly imagine him convening the best, most-capable women and men from both parties and independents, to serve our country. As serious people willing to do serious work, Romney and Ryan will resonate with one another and with a growing number of Iowans impatient for a brighter future.  Bring on all of the debates.

(David Oman, a Des Moines businessman, is a former chief of staff for Govs. Robert Ray and Terry Branstad.  He is co-chairman of Gov. Romney’s Iowa campaign.)