Politico reports on the influence of Rubio and Ryan:
In the next year, though, no two men in American politics will get more attention, have more power and speak more prominently about the direction of the post-Romney GOP than Rubio and Ryan. Rubio is now the party’s biggest draw. And Ryan’s post as House Budget Committee chairman keeps him front and center in the fiscal fights dominating Congress. He is the policy pope for many, if not most, House Republicans.
Assuming that this is correct, what would it say for the GOP that its two most influential representatives are members of Congress with no real legislative accomplishments of their own? Nothing good. Rubio’s thin record can be explained in part by his brief time in national office as part of the minority in the Senate, but that makes the pretension to party leadership harder to take seriously. To some extent, Ryan has done more to earn his prominence within the party, but the failure of the ticket to which he belonged ought to have weakened his position rather than reinforced it.
Movement conservatives have worked constantly over the last two years to build up and promote Rubio and Ryan, and during that time they have usually ignored or excused the weaknesses of both and greatly exaggerated their strengths. As flailing, defeated parties tend to do, Republicans have promoted these younger members too much and too quickly, which has encouraged them to become overly ambitious in their plans for the very near future. After all, few ambitious politicians are likely to resist the lure of presidential politics when they have so many people on their side egging them on. Whether that is good for them or their party is another matter all together.
Promoting new political talent too rapidly is an understandable impulse for a party that has been so battered and bruised over the last six years, but it is likely to prove to be a mistake. I suspect that many in the GOP have taken the example of Obama’s success too much to heart, and they have wrongly concluded from this that candidates with limited political experience and a very thin national record can compete and win general elections on a national level. As much as many Republicans railed against Obama’s relative lack of qualifications in 2008, they seem fascinated by the idea of rallying behind their own inexperienced rising stars. Many Republicans have also overestimated the broader significance of the 2009 off-year elections and the 2010 midterms, which suggests that they are also overestimating the political appeal of Republicans that were elected in those years, including Rubio.
Perhaps the most important reason that Republicans should be wary of enthusing too much over Rubio and Ryan is that they both seem ill-suited to reforming the Republican Party. If the GOP is to reform successfully, it is almost certainly going to have to find its answers outside of Congress and outside of Washington. Specifically on foreign policy, Rubio and Ryan not only have nothing new to say, but what they do say represents an echo of some of the GOP’s worst ideas. If the Republican Party wants to regain the public’s trust on the management of foreign policy, it shouldn’t be looking to Rubio or Ryan for leadership. Insofar as the GOP remains enthralled by them, it will likely not be inclined as a party to make most of the changes that it needs to govern well once in power.