Burning Question

Paul Ryan's convention speech: Did he pass his big test?

Republicans loved their VP nominee's robust defense of shrinking government; Democrats and fact-checkers are banging their heads against the wall

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) accepted his party's vice presidential nomination Wednesday night with an audience-rousing speech that focused on fiscal issues, his hometown of Janesville, Wis., and tearing down President Obama's record. (Watch a clip below.) The speech steers clear of social issues and policy specifics, but it has some eminently quotable zingers, some pretty notable whoppers, and some stern talk on the need to tackle the "tough issues" like the national debt and Medicare insolvency. "I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old," said Ryan, who, at 42, is the first member of Generation X on a national ticket. But while his big debut on the national stage juiced up the delegates and GOP officials at the Republican National Convention, did Ryan accomplish what he needed to for the Mitt Romney campaign, and himself?

Ryan delivered a masterpiece: "Wow," says Jim Geraghty at National Review. Ryan's speech was so effective, delivered with such warmth and amazing sense of connection, it "almost unnerved me." The delegates in the room "were going nuts," and my exploding Twitter feed signaled Ryan was connecting via the TV, too. "Conversational, direct, funny, detailed" — this speech was downright "Reaganesque." And the praise doesn't come any higher than that.
"Ryan and Rice: The most Reaganesque addresses...?"

He's a good — if mendacious — attack dog: Ryan's speech "was, without a doubt, the best, most effective speech of the convention," says Dan Amira at New York. "It was also appallingly disingenuous and shamelessly hypocritical." He's made the leap from "nerdy budget wonk" to "attack dog" seamlessly, but from Medicare cuts to the debt to GM plant closures, his "case against Obama relied on lies and deception" — not that many viewers read fact-checkers. "Ryan's pants are on fire, but all America saw was a barn-burner."
"Paul Ryan bets on the ignorance of America"

Ryan's speech won't really do much for Romney: I wouldn't describe it "as an electrifying speech — Ryan isn't the barn-burner type," says Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast. But his wonky, "sustained attack on Obama" was a hit in Tampa, and it's "beyond debate... that he has established himself, in marked contrast to Sarah Palin four years ago, as a credible contender for the office that is... a heartbeat from the presidency." That will only marginally help Romney, but hey, "if the ticket falls short, Paul Ryan already has a leg up for 2016."
"Paul Ryan's wonky assault on President Obama"

See for yourself:

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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