Mitt Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate is a bit of risk. Ryan pushes the ticket further to the right, a shift that will please both tea partyers and establishment conservatives, but leaves President Obama with plenty of room to appeal to the vast middle of the American electorate.

But Ryan immediately energizes the Romney campaign -- and the Republican standard-bearer needed a jolt of something. And Ryan represents much more than a jolt. He's a respected economic theorist who brings gravitas to the campaign.

Not everyone was an admirer of the "Ryan budget," but it was unquestionably thoughtful and brought to the table conversations the country hadn't been having. The current course seems to be to drive the country to the financial brink without dealing with entitlements and, like it or not, Ryan is a lone voice actually putting something out there for debate and evaluation. Political pundits continue to speculate as to whether Ryan will help or hurt the ticket, but at least he is a serious, contemplative addition who is not afraid to talk about some of the sensitive issues facing America today and in the near future.

Democrats, of course, will hoist his effigy over the national campaign by attempting to scare seniors in places like Florida (even though his proposed Medicare changes would affect no one over the age of 55). But that's politics.

All in all, Ryan represents an energetic, likable candidate with solid credentials and few discernable flaws. Without question, he strengthens the ticket.

In Ryan, just 42, Romney has the same youth and vitality John McCain had in Sarah Palin four years ago -- but with actual policy-development credentials and virtually none of the risk that his sidekick will "go rogue."

Too bad just one vice presidential debate has been scheduled this time. Of course Joe Biden probably does not share our disappointment.