Jonathan Chait exaggerates the extent of conservative Ryanmania, but not by much:
Suddenly Ryan’s potential nomination has become the sole locus of the conservative movement’s longings.
As [Ezra] Klein says, as Vice-President Ryan would be in a relatively powerless, largely ceremonial position and someone potentially less effective would be in his Chairman’s position. He’d have to toe the Romney Administration line, and the House GOP would lose his voice on Capitol Hill during what is likely to be very contentious budget negotiations beginning almost as soon as Congress returns in January. What’s the point of that, conservatives?
One factor in the Ryan-for-VP enthusiasm may be that Ryan’s boosters expect that he will have a major role in shaping Romney’s domestic policy in a manner similar to Cheney’s influence on Bush’s foreign policy. The Cheney experience may encourage them to think that a Vice President can exercise significant influence and power in a future Republican administration, and so they want to have someone like Ryan in the new Cheney role. The main problem with this is that Ryan will be very much Romney’s junior partner rather than acting as an eminence grise. It is more likely that Ryan would be wasted in the VP role, and within a year or two Ryan’s boosters would probably be writing wistful columns entitled “What Happened to Paul Ryan?” and “Where Did the Real Paul Ryan Go?” Maybe Ryan’s boosters are trying to make a bid for control of Romney’s campaign, but it most likely won’t result in the sort of control they want.
Besides that, Ryan is one of the least qualified prospects for the job. The selection of Ryan would be and would be seen as an electoral gimmick instead of a statement that the Republican ticket is interested in governing. Ryan’s lack of both executive and meaningful foreign policy experience would be a fair target for criticism, and it would make the Republican ticket one of the least experienced in foreign policy in modern times. After months of insisting that Romney would choose someone prepared to be President, a Ryan selection would be a failure to do just that.
Most of this takes for granted that adding Ryan to the ticket would be politically helpful to Romney and that a Romney-Ryan ticket would win, which has never made any sense, either. Last year, the original Ryanmania started because Republicans were certain that Obama would lose, and they didn’t want to “waste” a victory by running a hum-drum, cautious campaign. That was when Ryan boosters wanted Ryan as the presidential nominee. The new Ryanmania is taking hold because there is now no longer much confidence that Romney can win without doing something “bold,” which puts the Romney campaign on track to make the McCain error that they had been pledging not to repeat (i.e., choosing an unqualified person as running mate because it will generate excitement).