Does the Ryan pick make Romney a political Jedi Master?
I have combed through dozens of articles, by conservatives and liberals, but I cannot get away from this fact: Ryan was known only for his ‘Ryan Budget.’ Without it he is just 1 of 435 House members. And I do not know why Romney wants to make the Ryan Plan central to his campaign. Regardless of whether you like it or not, the Ryan Plan is objectively quite unpopular.
I feel like only a couple of years ago, most everybody, Republican and Democrat, appreciated and respected Ryan, but saw him as politically toxic because of his entitlement reform plans. In fact, he was never seen as having a chance at President or Vice President, or any greater ambition really. His was an important voice that deserved applause but not an embrace. While the Republican party might have changed recently, I do not see his views as any less offensive to moderates and independents. Romney’s embrace of Ryan also reinforces the narrative that “rich Romney loves tax breaks for the rich” (the Ryan Plan calls for tax cuts for the wealthy paid for by spending cuts in entitlements that come into effect a decade or so later).
This choice also undercuts Romney’s talk about how governorship and business experience (executive experience) is what America needs right now. As I argue in Boardwalk, Park Place, & Veepstakes, he should have put all his chips into one argument: America, hire the uber-competent team of Mr. Fix-Its. There was a degree of magic in a Pawlenty pick. Though a bit boring, that would have been in fact a strength: it would have made the campaign about Obama’s record instead of an extremely unpopular budget proposal. (And it looks like the Obama high command was very afraid of a Pawlenty pick too. But Ryan is great to run against.) In contrast, Paul Ryan has DC legislative experience only and has “never run anything”–not a business, city, or state–much like criticism someone else received in 2008 (his name rhymes with Osama).
Maybe Romney picked Ryan to show that he is capable of making tough choices? This choice certainly makes Romney appear substantive. Ryan is bold, smart, and offers specific policies, but I’m not sure the substance is something they can win on. However, this is the one of the best arguments I have read. Romney needs to look like less of a sleazy hair-do.
Maybe Romney picked Ryan to get Wisconsin? But Ryan has not campaigned statewide; most Wisconsonians have never heard of him. And even if picking Ryan does get him Wisconsin, that is only 10 electoral votes. Florida, with 29 electoral votes, is almost certainly lost because Ryan’s entitlement reforms don’t play well with older populations, and the Ryan pick will drag down the vote in older populations everywhere else in the country. In contrast, picking Rubio would have helped Romney win Florida (Rubio was a Senator), and help with latino turnout in ever single state with latino populations, including important swing states like Nevada and New Mexico.
Maybe Romney did it to keep the focus on the economy and domestic policy, compared to foreign policy where Obama has a comparative advantage? But that did not need to be done; the conversation was already going to be about the economy and domestic policy.
Maybe Romney did it because he wanted to leave the party with a legacy of thoughtful articulate conservatism? He did not want to elevate a Sarah Palin. Laudable, but I feel that Romney wants to win now.
But Romney is smart and savvy, s0 here I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. Until then, this VP pick looks like courageous political suicide. I am kind of impressed actually.
Romney, we hardly knew you.