COLLEGE STATION, Md., Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Hold your breath, America. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has picked a running mate who could make him president.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., complements Romney's private sector expertise wonderfully. He has a clear and concise plan to fix the federal budget and, as I count electoral votes, he could put the man from Massachusetts over the top in what will ultimately be a tight contest.
The U.S. economy isn't growing and creating jobs because the private sector is despondent -- demand is weak and U.S. President Barack Obama won't let America play to its strengths and compete globally -- and the public sector is bloated -- the federal government has runaway deficits exceeding $1 trillion annually.
Romney promises to open development of U.S. energy resources, without harm to the environment, and level the playing field on trade with mercantilists like China. Slashing oil imports and boosting U.S. exports in Asia would increase gross domestic product by $500 billion, create 5 million jobs and get the economy growing at a 4-5 percent annual pace.
Ryan is the principal architect of Republican proposals to fix federal finances and restore some sanity to state budgets by harnessing runaway healthcare costs.
By offering retiring Americans a choice between traditional Medicare and a subsidy to purchase private insurance, he would put Health and Human Services on the dime to cut costs without reducing benefits, and get U.S. healthcare performance more in line with competitors like Germany and Japan.
Governors are crying for more control on how they spend Medicaid dollars because federal mandates are stretching state and local budgets to the breaking point. Ryan would send the states block grants and discretion to shape more effective programs.
That would eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy in Washington, improve services to the poor and children and unshackle America's governors, who are a heck of a lot more creative than the bureaucrats at HHS.
Romney's choice is remindful of another bold move -- John Kennedy's selection of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson, D-Texas, was majority leader in the Senate and added substance to Kennedy's campaign. More importantly, just as Lyndon Johnson delivered Texas, picking Ryan puts Wisconsin in play and that could make all the difference.
The Real Clear Politics compilation of state polls states that Obama is well ahead in 19 states and the District of Columbia for a total of 247 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Romney appears certain to win 23 states with 191 electoral votes. That leaves Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia at play.
If Romney delivers a compelling message on the economy and jobs, and Ryan convinces seniors the ticket has answers to runaway Medicare spending that don't threaten them, the GOP candidates should be able to snag Florida, Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina. Obama's polling margin is less than 1.5 percentage points in each of those states.
Of the remaining states, victories in Ohio and Virginia, with 18 and 13 electoral votes, respectively, would put Romney over the top.
With a robust manufacturing base and history, Ohio voters have a strong affinity toward labor unions and Gov. John Kasich's failed bid to curb public employee collective bargain rights is burdening the GOP. However, with unemployment still at more than 7 percent in the Buckeye State, Romney has a decent shot at making his case on jobs.
Virginia has a large number of federal employees and contractors and a growing number of African-American and Hispanic voters. With unemployment at 5.7 percent, it could prove very tough for Romney to capture.
However, choosing Ryan puts Wisconsin with 10 electoral votes back into play. If Ryan can deliver the Badger State, Romney will likely become president.
(Peter Morici is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and widely published columnist.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)