Editor's note: Edward Morrissey is a senior editor and correspondent for the conservative commentary website hotair.com
(CNN) -- Mitt Romney had a wide selection of potential running mates for this election. He could have played it safe by picking former Governor Tim Pawlenty or Senator Rob Portman, two men skilled in national politics with very little baggage. Romney could have played to the Tea Party by picking Senator Marco Rubio, whose relative lack of experience would have been balanced by political and rhetorical talent, along with a made-for-media biography.
The Republican presidential nominee could have done a little of both by choosing Governor Bobby Jindal, who just started his second term in Louisiana after launching reforms in state government and education.
Instead, Romney chose Paul Ryan, seven-term Congressman from Wisconsin and most importantly, chair of the House Budget Committee. In doing so, Romney has elevated his campaign above the silly-season distractions that have plagued the 2012 campaign. This signals that Romney wants to draw a clear contrast in both governing philosophy and gravitas between the GOP and Democratic tickets.
Democrats may be licking their chops, believing that Ryan's unpopular budget plan will be a millstone around Romney's neck. However, Democrats would have hung the Ryan plan on Romney no matter who got the VP nod, and no one explains the need for budgetary reform better than Ryan himself. In fact, hardly anyone will talk specifically about how to accomplish budgetary reform. Ryan is one of the few who have risked proposing a roadmap for entitlement reform. Ryan's plan looks far past the "Taxmageddon" or "fiscal cliff" at the end of this year, to the "fiscal gap" facing the United States over the next 75 years, where our current path puts us on a trajectory to have $222 trillion more in liabilities than revenue.
Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have no serious proposal to deal with long-term debt. The plan Obama has to "pay down the debt" in a "balanced" way would add $6.4 trillion in deficits between 2013 and 2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Democrats' idea of budgetary reform is to demand an increase in taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year -- a policy that the Tax Foundation, a research group that favors lower taxes, says would produce $40 billon a year in new revenue, in budgets with trillion-dollar annual deficits.
And speaking of seriousness, let's not forget that the Democratic-controlled Senate has gone more than 1,200 days without passing its own budget. Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, has at least fulfilled the legal obligation for annual budget resolutions in the lower chamber, but he's gone far beyond that to provide leadership on the long-term fiscal crisis facing the nation.
That contrast led to a confrontation last February between Ryan and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner over the lack of long-term solutions coming from the White House, in which Geithner finally told Ryan, "We don't have a definitive solution to the long term problem. What we do know is, we don't like yours..."
By adding Ryan to the ticket, Mitt Romney is reminding voters that Republicans have at least proposed definitive solutions to long-term problems. Democrats haven't. Under Obama's leadership, the White House and the Democratic-controlled Senate have stopped providing solutions to the real problems facing the U.S. That's not the kind of leadership that voters want in Washington D.C., and Romney's running-mate choice makes that contrast crystal clear.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Morrissey.