Paul Ryan's GOP convention speech: 4 predictions

Mitt Romney's veep pick has a lot riding on his speech to the nation — but don't expect a repeat of Sarah Palin's 2008 rousingly folksy stemwinder

Rep. Paul Ryan
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

With Day One of the Republican National Convention under their belt, GOPers are gearing up for Day Two, with much of the suspense stemming from Wednesday night's marquee speaker: Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. So much is resting on the Wisconsin congressman's address that he's guarding the speech like a CIA secret — all paper copies must be shredded before members of his inner circle leave a drafting session. According to a new Pew Poll, more Americans are interested in hearing Ryan's remarks than Mitt Romney's big acceptance speech. No surprise there, says McClatchy's Anita Kumar: Ryan is the "still largely unknown subject of wild enthusiasm among conservatives and the target of unrelenting scorn from Democrats." Here, political prognosticators offer four predictions for Ryan's "ultimate sales job":

1. Ryan will get personal

The bookish "Ryan wants to talk policy," says the AP's Philip Elliott, but "Mitt Romney's team wants his No. 2 to focus more on his immigrant family and small-town values." Expect Ryan to let Americans in on his upbringing in Janesville, Wis., how he overcame the death of his father when he was 16, and how his Irish ancestors came to America in the 1850s. Ryan is "a rock star among wonky Republicans," but most voters know little or nothing about him, says John Avlon at The Daily Beast. This is his big chance to introduce and endear himself to America, and that makes Ryan's "the highest-stakes speech of the convention," the political "equivalent of his major-label debut after a series of critically acclaimed independent albums."

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2. He'll try to unite the party around his vision of government

But the speech won't stop at personal anecdotes and biographical details, says Jon Swaine in Britain's The Telegraph. Ryan is sure to heavily criticize President Obama's economic and social record, and to lay out "an optimistic plan for America on which fiscal hawks like him and relative moderates such as Mr. Romney can agree." Policy-wise, his big job is "reassuring restless anti-government activists and supporters of Ron Paul" that the Romney-Ryan ticket "can replace the 'cradle-to-the-grave welfare state' they see in modern America with 'limited government'."

3. The speech won't be Sarah Palin 2.0

Though Ryan is helping craft the speech, it's primarily the work of a team of professionals, most notably Matthew Scully, who wrote the 2008 speech of another "relatively unknown vice-presidential nominee, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska," says Trip Gabriel in The New York Times. "But the Ryan campaign is tamping down expectations for a Palin-style sequel." Palin's "instant classic" speech "established her, like her or not, as a scrappy political talent," says The Daily Beast's Avlon. But Ryan is no Palin; even if he ends up "more popular than the nominee among the party faithful," he's famous for his budget-policy prowess, not red-meat crowd-pleasers.

4. Ryan will try to show he's ready to lead

The 42-year-old congressman's speech has to prove just one thing: "His own readiness to become president of the United States," says Gregory Korte in USA Today. That hurdle tripped up Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, Dan Quayle in 1988, and Palin in 2008. "You have to pass a threshold plausibility test," St. Louis University law professor Joel Goldstein tells USA Today. Can Ryan show he has "the credentials or the résumé significant enough that you can see him as president?" The flip side, says The Daily Beast's Avlon, is that he's also auditioning for the top of the ticket in 2016 if Romney comes up short. "Talk of such a scenario is politically incorrect, of course, but for many of the major speeches — particularly [Gov. Chris] Christie, [Sen. Marco] Rubio, and Ryan — that is the subtext."

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