On Saturday evening I had the opportunity to speak with Rep. Raúl Labrador about Mitt Romney’s decision to pick Wisconsin Congressman and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate. Mr. Labrador, who is a freshman Republican from Idaho as well as an immigration attorney, has been a leading conservative voice on Capitol Hill since 2010. Recognized by the national media, incidentally, as the architect of the Balanced Budget Amendment during the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations, Congressman Labrador has also been a long-time advocate for putting Paul Ryan on the 2012 Republican ticket. In an exclusive interview with Townhall, he unequivocally argued that Team Romney made the right decision.
Mr. Labrador’s reasoning is fully supported.
“[Paul Ryan] saw the fiscal cliff we’re about to face a long time ago,” Labrador said. “He realized the important decision we needed to make and he had a vision for America. I also like the fact that he, in my opinion, is one of the smartest if not the smartest [members of Congress]. [And he] knows how to express his opinions and explain the issues without sounding condescending and in a way that people can actually understand.”
Indeed, Paul Ryan has garnered a reputation over the years for being able to distill complex and arcane budgetary speak into terms the American people can understand. Because of this, Labrador argues, his popularity transcends party lines.
“He appeals to independents and moderates. And I think true conservatism [in the mold of] Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp is about reaching out in a way the majority of Americans can understand and get behind,” he said.
Still, choosing Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee doesn’t come without risks. In fact, Democrats have already doubled down on their negative attacks, asserting Paul Ryan is the “mastermind behind the extreme GOP budget” and “architect of the Republican plan to kill Medicare.” And while these scare tactics could very well hurt Mitt Romney’s chances of courting seniors in November, Congressman Labrador is convinced that this budget represents a sound and prudent course of action which voters will embrace – as long as Republicans stay on message.
“The only issue I see [with the GOP ticket] is if Romney and Ryan do not explain [their] ideas very well – and I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Mr. Labrador.
“I think when people [fully] understand the issues we’re facing on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security…they want somebody to address those issues. So I am not worried about any of his philosophies or his policy ideas. They just need to make sure [that] the Democratic Party is not allowed to define him or to define them as a team.”
Over the last few months many pundits and political observers have called upon Mitt Romney to choose a Hispanic as his running mate. After all, a NBC/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo survey released last month reported that the presumptive Republican nominee trailed President Obama by 44 percentage points among Hispanic voters. Labrador, a Hispanic himself, argued that this course of action would have been a political misstep.
“I think it would have been a mistake for Mitt Romney to pick [New Mexico Governor] Susana Martinez or [Florida Senator] Marco Rubio because he’s trying to attract the Hispanic vote. [Today] he made a governing decision -- he made a leadership decision – he didn’t make a decision based on politics. [I think] today he showed true leadership.”
But above all, he intoned, the Ryan pick indicates that Team Romney is patently serious about putting the nation’s fiscal house in order.
“Mitt Romney wants to take the message -- the ideological battle -- to the Democrats. And there’s two different visions for America. One is expressed by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. The other vision of America is expressed by Barack Obama and Joe Biden and the Democrats. They’re two starkly different visions for America -- and the American people will [ultimately] get to decide what path they want to go forward on.”
Will Americans opt for four more years of what Ryan referred to as more “debt, doubt and despair,” or will they embrace the Romney-endorsed Ryan plan that cuts spending, reforms the tax code, and balances the federal budget?
Rep. Labrador later mentioned that while he doesn’t know Mr. Ryan intimately, he believes that the young congressman accepted Governor Romney’s offer for all the right reasons.
“He’s just a family guy. He’s a guy who is interested in America and interested in making it a safer place for his family. That’s actually the only thing that surprises me about [Paul Ryan accepting the vice presidential nomination]. I know he was concerned about the effect this would have on his family…he values the privacy of his family quite a lot.”
At the conclusion of the interview, I asked, “will Team Romney ultimately prevail in November?” Congressman Labrador certainly seemed to think so.
“I think today Governor Romney showed [today that by picking Paul Ryan] he’s going to win -- and is going to win big,” he said in reply.