Mitt Romney is a very conventional Republican of a very different age. He has roots in 1960s Republican orthodoxy. His personal style if not his political instincts are deeply conservative. He respects authority, precedent and history.
But had he decided to run a conventional Republican challenge against President Barack Obama this fall, he would have flown Saturday to San Diego and announced the identity of his running mate — someone like Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, all reasonableness and Ivy League but not Wall Street nor Tea Party — on the USS Midway.
Instead, Mr. Romney flew east, to Virginia, an important swing state, and stood before the USS Wisconsin and announced that he had selected Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the intellectual wunderkind of the new conservatism.
Mr. Ryan is no midway selection. He is, to choose a redolent phrase from another era, a choice not an echo.
That was the phrase used to describe Sen. Barry Goldwater in 1964 — a conservative choice and not an echo of the Republican mainstream that had produced two doomed candidacies by Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York and one by Vice President Richard Nixon of California.
Today, no one suggests that Mr. Ryan is a Goldwater figure nor that the new Romney-Ryan ticket is headed toward losing 44 states the way Goldwater did nearly a half century ago. Mr. Romney is a far stronger candidate than Goldwater, his incumbent rival is far weaker than Lyndon B. Johnson was only 11 months after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and his running mate, Mr. Ryan, the first House member to join a GOP ticket since Goldwater chose the almost unknown William Miller of Lockport, N.Y., is far more accomplished and far more visible than Miller. Indeed, when Goldwater completed his acceptance speech in the Cow Palace in the summer of 1964, a political commentator, astonished at a speech that deplored moderation in the defense of liberty, said, “My gosh, he’s going to run as Barry Goldwater.”
Mr. Romney’s selection of Mr. Ryan does not suggest that the former Massachusetts governor is going to run as Barry Goldwater, but it sure suggests he is not going to run as the Mitt Romney who ran a spirited but unsuccessful challenge to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 1994 nor as the Mitt Romney who governed
Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, when he championed the health care law that Democrats now say is the model for Obamacare.