By Chris May

TAMPA, Fla. (CBS) — Paul Ryan had his moment at the RNC Wednesday night – and he seized it.

Whatever the result of this campaign, the congressman from Janesville, Wisconsin can’t lose. Even if he doesn’t become vice-president, he’s moved to the top tier of the Republican party, and at the age of 42, it’s a leadership mantle he’ll be able to hold on to for years to come.

It’s not that Ryan is the most charismatic politician. He’s not. But he’s fearless. He doesn’t shrink from the fight. He’s willing to put his solutions down on paper. And he never comes across as angry.

All those qualities were on display Wednesday night as he told the story of his life, built up his running mate Mitt Romney as uniquely prepared for the presidency and crafted a stinging indictment of four years of governance by President Obama.

”Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all,” he told the convention “we are going to solve this nation’s economic problems. And I’m going to level with you: We don’t have that much time. But if we are serious, and smart, and we lead, we can do this.”

For Americans who were seeing him for the first time, Ryan came across as serious, credible, and even likable. For a campaign that’s often described as stiff, secretive and thin-skinned, the importance of that can’t be underestimated.

Of course, anyone will tell you that in presidential politics, it’s the top of the ticket that matters. If Mitt Romeny isn’t able to effectively connect with voters in his primetime address Thursday night, nothing Ryan did Wednesday night will matter. If he can, the GOP will roar out of Tampa with real momentum, and embark on a sprint to November.

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