It is a good thing I am not a betting man. My guess was that Mitt Romney's vice presidential selection would fall on former Minnesota Governor Tom Pawlenty a safe choice with a convincing personal history. He settled, instead, on Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and now this is a more ideologically charged election than even Lyndon Johnson versus Barry Goldwater in 1964.
I would compare it to William Jennings Bryan versus William McKinley in 1900. Perhaps another comparison would be Margaret Thatcher versus Michael Foot in 1983 in Great Britain.
While the move has made conservative opinion leaders ecstatic, it is far from the safe move. Romney, by selecting Paul Ryan, has given up on a campaign that will merely be a referendum on Barack Obama's performance; the voters will now be called upon to decide how to restructure the American economy.
Ryan is a high risk proposition because he is essentially the bearer of a message that things cannot go on the same way and drastic changes are needed. Voters tend to be scared off by candidates proposing radical changes unless they sense that these are desperate times.
Romney and Ryan not only have to convince the American people that their economic solution is the correct one, but they have also to convince them that it is better to bite the bullet now rather than defer painful choices for later - which is an all too human tendency. To give one example, most Americans realize that the Social Security system is broken and needs to be reformed, but when it comes to their benefits they would resent anybody who reduces them.
Both sides can be expected to produce a list of economics professors arguing the case for and against Ryan's proposals.
In addition to the budgetary issue, Ryan brings pluses to the Republican ticket. He is a Midwesterner, and Mitt Romney, in order to win this election, is going to have to carry Ohio, Iowa and preferably, Wisconsin or Michigan. He is also Catholic like Joe Biden and Catholics may turn out to be the crucial swing vote in this election.