Actually, contra Yeats, our best are full of passionate intensity -- except when it comes to running for president. The Tea Party shows no sign of obliging the media by fading away. Yet one after another, each of several promising prospects on the Republican bench -- Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan -- has begged off . . . or seemed to.
Gov. Rick Perry did take the plunge. And he is no slouch. As the governor who has presided over the most economically vibrant of American states at a time when the rest of country is beginning to feel downright frightened, his one-sentence summation is powerful -- "He will put America back to work." He delivers a fine speech (see his announcement for president), actually enjoys the process of pressing the flesh and campaigning (voters can always tell -- just ask Bill Clinton) and seems to be a prodigious fundraiser.
And yet, the rumor that Rep. Paul Ryan is considering the possibility of a run is even better news. A glance at the Electoral College map shows that a candidate from the vote-rich Midwest would be a better draw for Republicans than a southerner, since Republicans are likely to win the south anyway.
Ryan hoped, along with so many of us, that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels would make the race. Daniels, like Ryan, is a cheerful but deep-dyed conservative who understands the existential risk that our national debt represents. Daniels called it the "new red menace" -- red ink that is.
All of the Republican candidates talk about spending and debt, but Paul Ryan is the acknowledged master of the subject, not just in Congress but also in the entire Republican Party. It is the Ryan budget that has come to define a party willing to make dramatic and politically risky cuts in the name of saving the country from bankruptcy. Ironically, it is the Ryan budget that would save Medicare -- not the blinkered denial that passes for the Democrats' plan. It is Ryan, with his mastery of detail combined with a sincerity rarely found among elected officials, who is best able to explain it.