U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville is being touted as the likely Republican presidential nominee amid signs it might take multiple ballots at a contested national convention.
That would please the traditional Republican establishment which has been stunned by early voter support across the nation for businessman Donald Trump.
Ryan was the vice presidential nominee four years ago, giving him national recognition. He has been a budget guru in the House of Representatives. The politicians and lobbyists can work with a President Ryan, the pundits suggest.
On the other hand, Ryan is recognized as a major Congressional figure. Public opinion polls show Congress gets very poor grades from voters. Outsiders have been popular this year in presidential primaries and caucuses.
Regardless of who will emerge as the party choice for the presidency, issues like trade agreements, health care, abortion, terrorists and immigration will get attention. But if Ryan is the GOP nominee, other issues could appear.
His selection could make Social Security and Medicare significant issues in the campaign. Ryan has long championed partial privatizations for Social Security and Medicare. Actuarial reports suggest changes might be needed if higher revenues are not collected.
Partial privatization would have future generations getting grants to help them select from a variety of health insurance plans in their senior-citizen years. A favorite argument is that competition would hold down overall health costs.
Proponents also suggest private citizens could do better than Social Security if they were making some investment decisions on their own.
That would be a boon to the investment advisor industry. President George W. Bush had floated privatization ideas, but they died in the Congress. Bush didn’t push the ideas, but a President Ryan might.
Ryan could provide some clarity to the debate over Obamacare. Every Republican candidate has promised to repeal it and provide an alternative. As is usually the case, the devil is in the details, but there aren’t any details.
One approach has been to try and “kick the policy can down the street,” dumping alternative solutions into the laps of officials in the 50 states.
But the key domestic issue in the national elections this fall will be the future of the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is now divided with four conservative and four liberal justices. Republicans, who have a Senate majority, have vowed to block a vote on any nominee of President Obama. The decision on the court appointment should be made by the new president, say Republicans.
Selection of Ryan would be appropriate because it was Wisconsin voters who rejected Donald Trump, giving U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas most of the state’s delegates to the GOP convention.
Support from the radio talk shows has become a central element to the power of Republicans in Wisconsin. Gov. Scott Walker is a frequent visitor to those shows. A reporter for the New York Times asked Charlie Sykes, perhaps the best-known radio personality in Milwaukee – and possibly the state – about their importance.
‘’Can someone win without talk radio? Yes, theoretically,” Sykes replied. “Except no one has.”
Ryan would surely have that support if he became the nominee.
Pommer, known as the “dean” of State Capitol correspondents, has covered government action in Madison for 36 years, including the actions of nine governors. The content in this column does not reflect the views or opinions of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association or its member newspapers.