Philip Maddocks: Conservatives are now urging Romney to run as vice president

Philip Maddocks

Just days after satisfying his base and choosing Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, Mitt Romney is again feeling pressure from conservatives, who are now urging him to elevate Mr. Ryan to the presidential slot on the Romney-Ryan ticket.

In rallying around Mr. Ryan, a champion of cutting government spending and reining in the costs of programs like Medicare and Medicaid, conservatives are calling for Mr. Romney to step out of the number one position and leave the presidency to someone who has the skill and stomach for pushing their fiscal agenda.

A strongly worded Wall Street Journal editorial on Thursday urged Mr. Romney to switch his vice presidential pick to himself and leave the presidential work to Mr. Ryan, saying the congressman “best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election.”

“It’s not as if Mr. Romney has never changed his mind,” the editorial noted. “And this time, the change would do him, the ticket, and the party a world of good.”

The Journal editorial follows a fresh wave of public pressure from other conservative outlets for Mr. Romney to erase doubts about his commitment to conservative causes — an issue that has dogged Mr. Romney since his days campaigning for the Senate in Massachusetts.

“The conservative base of the party is so concerned about Obama and his approach to government that they are going to vote for Romney,” said a longtime political pollster who worked for Rick Santorum during Mr. Santorum’s nominating fight with Mr. Romney. “The question is, is Mitt going to get the country into the even bigger hole we want him to get it into. He says the right things, but there is that uncertainty that wouldn’t be there with Paul at the top of the ticket.”

The Weekly Standard on Thursday urged Mr. Romney to embrace not just the conservative principles in Mr. Ryan’s budget — but to prove his commitment to those beliefs by naming Mr. Ryan as the presidential nominee. The Weekly Standard editorial said it had Mr. Romney’s best interests in mind in suggesting the ticket switch, writing that the Republican candidate will be happier fulfilling the ceremonial duties of the vice presidency and leaving the dirty work of eliminating health and workplace benefits to a President Ryan.

“Republicans will be voting for Mr. Ryan anyway, so it only makes sense to put him at the top of the ticket,” The Weekly Standard wrote. That view was echoed by Newt Gingrich, who lost a bid for the Republican nomination to Mr. Romney.

“If Romney needs to defend the Paul Ryan budget, there’s no better way than to put Paul Ryan up front to defend it,” he said, adding that Mr. Ryan could — as he has done with his plan to balance the federal budget — introduce a timetable to roll out Mr. Romney’s previous tax returns over a three-decade period.

Mr. Gingrich also said that running as Mr. Ryan’s vice presidential pick could help Mr. Romney in culturally conservative parts of the industrial Midwest where residents seem perplexed about why Mr. Romney has so much difficulty explaining who he is and how he will make them and the country rich.

The not-so-subtle campaign among conservatives on Mr. Ryan’s behalf may be moot if Mr. Romney has already made up his mind about running as vice president, as some political observers believe.

But Mr. Romney’s campaign added some doubt to that notion in the last couple of days when it defended the candidate as someone who will bring badly needed leadership to the oval office In doing so, the campaign came perilously close in the minds of some conservatives to sounding like it was suggesting that Mr. Romney is actually still running for president.

But in Iowa, Mr. Romney went out of his way to talk about his experience as a second fiddle, answering obediently to whomever is in charge and saying whatever will curry favor with his political supporters at the moment.

“We’ve got to do some reforms in this campaign, maybe even giving me a lesser role, and I have some experience doing that, as you know,” he said.

Polls suggest that Mr. Romney’s transition from primary candidate to presumptive vice presidential nominee has deeply unified Republicans around his candidacy.

“Mitt doesn’t always explain himself that well,” said a spokesman for Crossroads GPS, a conservative-leaning advocacy group. “But he proved to be a good listener when he was urged to choose Ryan as a running mate. I guess we’ll all find out now just how good of a listener he is.”

Philip Maddocks writes political satire and humor for GateHouse Media and can be reached at