(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
TAMPA, Fla. — Four years ago, a previously unknown Alaska governor surprised and electrified a Republican convention that was yearning for something to get excited about as a historic November defeat loomed.
This time around, the GOP knew what it was getting in Paul Ryan, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee — and it was already excited about him. But the unanswered question was whether this relatively young, 42-year-old Wisconsinite making his debut on the national stage would project the aura of a president and instill the kind of confidence among independents, undecided swing voters and soft partisans to boost Mitt Romney’s case against President Barack Obama.
The main event for Romney (and the most important speech of his political career, so far) is still tonight, when he will formally accept the Republican presidential nomination. But Wednesday evening was important for the former Massachusetts governor nonetheless, as Ryan’s performance would either validate or cast doubt on his first major presidential decision.
The House Budget chairman didn’t deliver the stem-winder that Sarah Palin served up to convention delegates in St. Paul, Minn., in 2008. But in the professorial, plain-language tone that has been the hallmark of his speeches on the House floor and at think tanks across Washington, D.C., for years as he pushed his sometimes-controversial fiscal reforms, he dissected Obama’s record with humor and precision — and in a way that might appeal to the geographic and demographic voting blocs Romney needs to beat Obama.