Hold your breath, America. Mitt Romney has picked a running mate who could make him president.
Congressman Paul Ryan complements Romney's private-sector expertise wonderfully. He has a clear and concise plan to fix the federal budget, and as I count electoral votes, he could put Romney over the top in what will ultimately be a tight contest.
The U.S. economy isn't growing and creating jobs, because the private sector is despondent -- demand is weak and President Barack Obama won't let America play to its strengths and compete globally, the public sector is bloated and Washington has runaway deficits exceeding $1 trillion annually.
Romney promises to open development of U.S. energy resources and level the playing field on trade with mercantilists like China. Slashing oil imports and boosting U.S. exports in Asia would increase GDP by $500 billion, create five million jobs and get the economy growing at a four to five per cent annual pace.
Ryan is the principal architect of GOP proposals to fix federal finances and restore some sanity to state budgets by harnessing runaway health-care costs.
By offering retiring Americans a choice between traditional Medicare and a subsidy to purchase private insurance, he would put Health and Human Services on the dime to cut costs without reducing benefits, and get U.S. health-care performance more in line with competitors like Germany.
Governors are crying for more control on how they spend Medicaid dollars, because federal mandates are stretching state budgets to the breaking point. Ryan would send the states block grants and discretion to shape more effective programs. That would eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy in Washington, improve services to the poor and unshackle America's governors, who are a heck of a lot more creative than the bureaucrats at HHS.
Romney's choice is remindful of another bold move -- John Kennedy's selection of Lyndon Johnson. Then-senator Johnson was majority leader in the Senate and added substance to Kennedy's campaign. More importantly, just as Johnson delivered Texas, picking Ryan puts Wisconsin in play, and that could make all the difference.
According to the Real Clear Politics compilation of state polls, Obama is well ahead in 19 states and the District of Columbia for a total of 247 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Romney seems certain to win 23 states with 191 electoral votes. That leaves Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia at play.
If Romney delivers a compelling message on the economy, and Ryan convinces seniors the ticket has answers to runaway Medicare spending, they should be able to snag Florida, Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina. Obama's margin is less than 1.5 per cent in each of those states.
Victories in Ohio and Virginia with 18 and 13 electoral votes respectively would put Romney over the top.
With a robust manufacturing base and history, Ohio voters have a strong affinity toward labour unions, and Gov. John Kasich's failed bid to curb public-employee collective-bargaining rights is burdening the GOP. However, with unemployment still above seven per cent in Ohio, Romney has a decent shot at making his case on jobs.
Virginia has a large number of federal employees and contractors and a growing number of African and Hispanic voters. With unemployment at only 5.7 per cent, it could prove very tough for Romney to capture.
However, choosing Ryan puts Wisconsin with 10 electoral votes back into play. If Ryan can deliver them, Romney could become president.
Peter Morici is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.