Barack Obama, by ignoring the Simpson-Bowles commission and spiking (as a recent Washington Post article detailed) a "grand bargain" on taxes and entitlements last summer, has made it clear he is not such a president.
The Republican presidential candidates seem more amenable. Their fiscal and budget proposals have been somewhat sketchy, and their numbers may not add up. But they are also talking about Medicare reforms and changes in the tax code that would broaden the base and cut rates.
Mitt Romney in particular seems to be deferring to Ryan. He has modified his 59-point economic program with pledges to seek tax and entitlement reform. Ryan was scheduled to meet with him yesterday after his AEI speech.
Romney would be wise to listen. Ryan knows far more about the budget than any of the presidential candidates. He combines deep policy knowledge with sure political instincts -- a combination rare in politicians, especially Republicans.
If Romney is elected and Republicans win a majority in the Senate and hold their majority in the House, it seems possible that Ryan more than the new president would seize the initiative on tax and entitlement policy.
He could be the effective equivalent of a chancellor of the exchequer, as Osborne is for David Cameron and Gordon Brown was for Tony Blair, driving budget and economic policy.
The conventional political wisdom is that Ryan's budget is politically suicidal. But conventional wisdom also held that voters would like the stimulus package and come to like Obamacare. Neither has happened.
Republicans' standing in generic House vote polls did not slump when Ryan's budget passed last year. Right now, it's about the same as at this point in the 2010 election cycle.
Maybe, just maybe, voters will reward politicians who tackle looming problems rather than those, like Obama, who keep kicking the can down the road.