The wrong vice presidential candidate would be anybody who is not a cultural conservative. If McCain picks a running mate who does not have a strong record of defending life and traditional marriage, McCain will lose. A socially "moderate" Republican vice presidential nominee not only would depress turnout among conservative Republicans but also curtail McCain's potential appeal among the culturally conservative swing voters Ryan explained to NPR.
The right vice presidential candidate would be somebody who not only inspires the conservative base of the GOP in a way McCain himself has not, but who also has demonstrated appeal to Northern swing voters.
In a number of venues recently, Rep. Paul Ryan himself has been floated as a potential vice presidential pick. (When I appeared on Bill Bennett's nationally syndicated radio show this week, for example, producer Seth Leibsohn, who guest-hosted part of the segment, asked what I thought of Ryan as a potential running mate for McCain.)
Ryan has much to recommend him (as do a number of other potential candidates). He is pro-life, pro-gun and pro-marriage, and has other assets to offer conservatives, too. In 10 years in the House, where he has served on the Ways and Means and Budget committees, his main focus has been on fiscal affairs. He has been an eloquent advocate for lower taxes, earning an "A" rating last year from the National Taxpayer's Union.
He is the top proponent in the House for Social Security reform based on personal retirement accounts. He co-sponsored a specific plan with Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire that would have guaranteed current benefits, while also making Social Security solvent (according to the actuary of the Social Security Administration) and liberating future generations of working Americans from having to depend on the government for their retirement income.
Even so, Ryan's fiscal record is not perfect. He voted for President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act and Medicare prescription drug plan, which were unwarranted expansions of the federal government.
He is also only 38, which could be both a plus and a minus. He would balance the older McCain, of course -- and with 10 years service in Congress, he would enter the race with more than twice the federal legislative experience as the likely Democratic presidential nominee.