Paul Ryan and Gen X GOP

Updated 12:17 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012

Story highlights

Alex Castellanos: Romney showed boldness picking Paul Ryan

Ryan will work with Romney to address U.S. economic woes, Castellanos says

Castellanos: The message is that Washington is not going to grow under their watch

He says Romney took a political risk for a purpose larger than himself -- to fix the country

Editor’s Note: Alex Castellanos, a CNN contributor, is a Republican consultant and the co-founder of Purple Strategies. Follow him on Twitter: @alexcast

CNN —  

In picking Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney demonstrated what kind of businessman he has been and what kind of leader he wants to be. He didn’t pick a running mate to help him make the political “sale.” He picked a vice president to help him fix the nation’s business, our broken economy.

Until this moment, Mitt Romney, like President Obama, had been playing small ball. The optimistic entrepreneur with the reputation for bringing disruptive, transformative change to the business world had not been leading, only playing it safe. As a result, he was missing two things from his campaign: He had not shown voters he had the strength to be president nor a vision that would bring change.

Now Romney has demonstrated both. This is a bold, not cautious move. And the choice of Ryan shouts that Washington better get ready for something different: Ryan is not a man of the status quo. He’s the living embodiment of what comes next.

By the numbers: Paul Ryan

Alex Castellanos
Alex Castellanos

By choosing Ryan, Romney reveals he wants to change the politics, not of the last four years, but of the last 12. The message here is that Washington is not going to grow under the watch of these two men. Washington’s economy is not going to get fatter in a Romney-Ryan administration, as it has under our last two presidents.

The choice of Ryan also tells us how Mitt Romney plans to grow the economy: Not top down, politically and artificially from Washington. That’s the old way.

Ryan, the first generation-X candidate on any presidential ticket, wants to turn that outdated process upside down. He would see the American people grow the economy bottom-up, naturally and organically. He sees the American economy working a lot more like new economy leaders eBay and Google: thin at the top, where the Washington politicians mooch, and thick at the bottom, where working people are.

Ryan may be the first of a new generation of GOPers who can compete and win, not only when battling old liberals, but “New Democrats.” On this Saturday morning in Virginia, with Romney as a father, the “New Republican” may have been born.

The choice comes with a lot of risk. The first month will look great and then the Democratic attacks will begin taking their toll. Grandma better strap on her seatbelt because her wheelchair is headed for the cliff again.

A lot of Republicans in swing House and Senate races will soon open their front doors only to see a big missile headed their way with “RYAN” stenciled on the side. These Republicans are going to have to fight harder now to defend the tough choices Ryan has already presented.

Opinion: The downside of picking Paul Ryan

Sometimes, however, the smartest political thing to do is not the smartest political thing. It is, simply, the right thing for the country. A lot of Republicans and swing voters, as surprised by the Ryan choice as I was, will be energized that Mitt Romney manned-up, got serious, took a political risk for a purpose higher than himself, and chose a VP, not to help him win an election, but to renew our troubled country.

For that reason Ryan may also be brilliant politics. He is a serious, grown up choice when this country, in crisis, needs one.

Mitt Romney, a vacillating, elite manager of the establishment’s status quo? No more. Barack Obama is now running against a bold leader with a populist agenda to bring change to Washington, shrink our debt and grow our economy.

RR for president? Something about that sounds right.

Watch CNN tonight at 7 and 10 ET for an in-depth look at Paul Ryan and the next steps for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alex Castellanos.