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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

The Paul Ryan Factor

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From this morning's Wall Street Journal:

Next to generalized distemper in Republican circles over their presidential candidates, the second most-offered opinion on the race is that people wish Paul Ryan were running. The Wisconsin congressman and House Budget chairman says he's not, but the discontented, especially independents, keep saying they wish he were.

I am beginning to think that the Draft Ryan movement is about something other than Paul Ryan. And that something is disagreement with the simple notion that all that matters is finding a hero who can defeat Barack Obama. Voters sense this election is wading into deeper waters than that.

Chris Christie understands this. After Paul Ryan, New Jersey's governor is the second most-mentioned GOP presidential hero. Gov. Christie says he's not ready to run for president. He's right. Not this time. Chris Christie has remarkable political and people skills. But his success in New Jersey has much to do with the fact that he mastered the deep, complex details of his state at its moment of crisis. He knows that he is in no way prepared to bring that level of knowledge to the debate voters want about the federal crisis.

I think the American electorate understands that next year's choice of a president is not about anything so unfocused as "the future of our country." The dissatisfaction with the GOP candidates reflects the awareness that the 2012 election isn't about 50 states. It's about the financial structure of one place—the nation's capital.

In the 1960s we had civil-rights elections. In the 1980s we had Cold War and American greatness elections. In 2012 we're going to have an election about money. Washington's money and ours.

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