Obama Insider: Ryan Gives Us “Lots to Shoot At”


Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate has been and will continue to be vastly over-interpreted by the national news media as a move that transforms the presidential campaign, as if the GOP tail really can wag the Republican dog.

Certainly the choice of Ryan energizes the most conservative wing of the Republican Party. But as Ryan Lizza pointed out in a brilliant profile in the New Yorker, Ryan’s ideas are so radical they have been consistently sidestepped by mainstream GOP leaders from Bush to Boehner.

Moreover, no vice presidential candidate – not even a Cheney or a Palin – can define a presidential candidacy. The race is and will be between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. What Ryan does do is give Obama and the Democrats specific votes on the budget, guns, abortion, Iraq, birth control, economic stimulus and so much more to highlight and creates a new concept – the Romney-Ryan budget —  which the Democrats will argue throws grandma from the train in order to give massive tax breaks to the wealthy.

Lizza and Ezra Klein of the Washington Post offer excellent summations of the effect of the Ryan pick. Klein’s analysis includes this point, referencing the above-mentioned New Yorker profile:

It’s worth recalling how Ryan became a semi-household name. It wasn’t a Republican strategy to put him forward. As Ryan Lizza recounts in his New Yorker profile of Ryan, it was a Democratic strategy to put Ryan forward. Ryan, he writes, “was caught between the demands of the Republican leaders, who wanted nothing to do with his Roadmap, and his own belief that the Party had to offer a sweeping alternative vision to Obama’s. Ryan soon had an unlikely ally, in Obama himself.” While Republicans were trying to keep Ryan quiet, the Obama administration was trying to make him famous. They saw his plans as the clearest distillation of the GOP’s governing philosophy — and they thought it would drive voters towards the Democrats. We’ll know in November whether that was a genius strategy or an epic miscalculation.

Calbuzz asked one of our best sources, very high and deep in the Obama campaign, to outline the effect of the Ryan pick from their perspective. Here’s the response (on background):

1. Romney caved to the right. Bad message to indies.

2. Ryan budgets have all the specificity Romney lacks — lots to shoot at. Lots to shoot at.
3. This intensifies our core contrast — the right investments to grow the economy vs. deregulate and cut taxes, shutter the government.

1. Ryan is respected by elite press for policy/intellectual chops.
2. Buys Romney some excitement/capital with the base.

Overall, this decision shows how incredibly focused they are on their right flank, and that they recognize they can’t afford a safe choice — they need to take some risks to try and recast this race.

Bottom line: the GOP will have a lot of fun in the next couple of weeks under the whip hand of the Weekly Standard, the National Review and the Wall Street Journal. But when the Reeps leave their convention in Tampa, that Romney-Ryan plan for Medicare and Social Security still will be scary to all those pensioners in Sarasota and Miami. And Mitt Romney will have to own it.


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There are 16 comments for this post

  1. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    A friend woke me this morning to tell me about the Ryan pick. Half asleep, my immediate response was, “Good. If Democrats are smart, they’ll run against the Ryan budget plan from now until November.”

    Steve Israel seems to agree with me and says the pick could help Democrats pick up seats in the House.

    As far as the cons your source notes, I think they’re minor at best. Ryan will not win Wisconsin for Romney. And Ryan’s policy chops seem as thin as his roadmap. Remember that much-hyped piece that, when it came out, was more a gloss-over than the detailed policy piece he’d promised? Ryan doesn’t have any policy ideas he didn’t get from Ayn Rand. While the right wing may be energized by the pick, it’s not likely to win the GOP more votes than they were already going to get.

    In fact, it just lost them a bunch. Democrats need to say “Medicare vouchers” in every sentence, every day. The more people know about what Ryan has championed and voted for, the more horrified they’ll be. By association, the guy who picked him to run with will look even less appealing than he already does. Voters will see that the “moderate” former governor is, in fact, running scared. Scared of the Tea Party. This swing to the wingnut right just lost Romney more women, more seniors, and more independents.

    Now that I’m awake, I still couldn’t be more pleased by the pick. Just as I’m thrilled by Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns. He’s digging his own defeat, just as he did on his foreign tour.

    • avatar dunesboy says:

      I agree. Just look at how quickly Boehner and the entire GOP House conveniently forgot all about Ryan’s Medicare plan after having voted for it unanimously . They ran so fast away from it once the public got wind of what was actually in the bill. The GOP thought it was a quick “easy” vote nobody would notice, to tweak the DEMS and to show their Tea PArty base they were actually doing something.
      Let’s not forget also most of the Tea Party freshmen ran and won in 2010 by vowing to “protect Medicare” and decrying Obama taking $250 billion out of Medicare funding. ( That this was actually savings from the Affordable Care Act wasn’t important…never let facts get in the way of a good GOP sound bite). Once in COngress the Tea Party froshes vote to not protect but basically destroy Medicare.
      So yes, “Voucher, voucher, voucher,” and few good “privitizing Social Security by handing your retirement over to Wall STreet bankers”, ought to do just nicely.

  2. @chrisfinnie CHECKMATE!

    One, the democrats have defied the U.S. Constitution and have failed to produce a mandated budget for over three years. Ryan’s budget was the only one on the table.

    Two, as for Medicare/Medicaid, Obamacare changes them in fundamental ways that are detrimental to senior citizens and the young.

    Three, tax returns are of little or no importance when the President has a disputed social security number, traveled on an unknown passport to Pakistan (something not allowed of ordinary citizens) and may have secured admissions and financial aid by claiming he was a foreign student. And was forced to surrender his law license, possibly for perjury over his legal name.

    Four, then there are open associations with Marxists, communists, domestic terrorists and felons like Rezko.

    Fifth, treating America’s enemies like friends and friends like enemies. Providing timetables to encourage our enemies to simply wait and attack.

    I would say that it is a match-up of epic proportions: good vs. evil; crony capitalism vs. crony socialism and an empty suit vs. a man of accomplishment.

    And George Bush can no longer be blamed for the mismanagement, ineptness and general corruption surrounding Obama.

    CHECKMATE! http://www.onecitizenspeaking.com

    • avatar Tigershark says:


      That is good stuff you are smoking. Where can I get some?

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      Really? Can you prove any of this? Or did you just get it from Rush and Beck?

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      Oh, and by the way, The Constitution says:

      Article I, Section 7 – Revenue Bills, Legislative Process, Presidential Veto
      All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills. Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law.

      As you can clearly see, the House of Representatives has the sole authority to propose a budget. They did that the two years when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker and passed it on time. If they didn’t do that after the Republicans took control of the House, it’s no fault of the president. It’s constitutionally not his job.

    • avatar JohnF says:

      Hey One Citizen Speaking, Please tell or explain to me in English what the hell you are talking about? What Communists? Marxists are pretty much the same as communists, so who is the communist? Hillary, Michelle or Boo the dog? Please show some proof of the trip to Pakistan on an unknown social security number. Heck it was know to him.

      Yes foreign governments like Obama quite bit more than the previous administration. That does not make hm a traitor, just good at foreign relations. By the way I agree with Tigeshark below, what the heck are you smoking, it must be some really good stuff, to think up those bizarre and blatantly untrue theories. Thanks for the Laughs.

  3. avatar smoker1 says:

    Romney’s selection of Ryan represents the awakening in the Governor’s campaign that defeating Obama isn’t going to be as easy as they thought. They got into this presuming that poor economic news alone would defeat the President.

    Romney’s strategy was to be just bland and nice and attack Obama with each and every breath. Just don’t make mistakes and you get the keys to the White House.

    So we heard that the trees were just the right height. We listened to America the Beautiful. We discovered that every single problem in the solar system could be connected with a straight line back to the “failed leadership of President Obama.”

    If that is the formula for winning, releasing taxes returns, detailing policy concepts and having an honest conversation through the press is madness.

    His public approach to policy was to take whatever Obama did and do the opposite.

    This strategy (amazingly) gets you to about 230 electoral votes, but not more. The awakening was that getting to 270 requires an actual campaign with real issues, full disclosure and discussion and candidates engaged with real people, not just corporations.

    Conservatives have worthy ideas that deserve an honest discussion. Its late in the game to begin a discussion, but thankfully it seems to have started. Now we must see the next steps such as release of the tax returns and lengthy, in depth interviews with actual news people (read: non-Fox). Then we have a campaign.

  4. avatar tonyseton says:

    I think Chrisfinnie’s got it right. I would add that I hope Obama and the Dems shift some of their TV money into ground work to wake up the poor and the elderly to the threat they face, and get them registered and get them to vote. Oh, and they should leave some money on the table for some spots that show unemployment and food stamp offices and medical clinics closed with a “Romney-Ryan” sign on the door.

  5. avatar sqrjn says:

    Con – giving the dems “lots to shoot at” also means getting public attention off the small stuff like Romneys personal finances and his lack of a human interface chip. Dems are ideologs too, people like to assume that they will win on “the issues”. The truth is budgets are too complicated for average voters. Independents will be swayed by their economic outlook at the time of voting and by the narrative that matches their beliefs. If nothing else the GOP has proven that they can take advantage of the powerful tea party narrative better than the Dems. All the Dems have offered so far is a competing narrative and world view.

  6. avatar cbarney says:

    an anecdotal data point:

    i have a good friend who is desperate to stay a republican. he is not an independent. he comes from nebraska and feels vaguely sinful at the idea of voting blue. he stayed the course through bush 1 and bush 2, but finally caved last year to obama’s obvious vision and energy, and palin’s appearance on the ticket. now he has jumped ship on the gop again at the appearance or ryan. he emailed me “With his Veep candidate, Romney has decided to go after the conservative wing of the party and is abandoning me and the moderate side of the GOP. So I go on the dump pile along with the Hispanics.”

    i told him he is in good company.

    he is fed up with obama after getting, he feels, suckered into voting for him in 08. he lives in maine now so his state is not really in play; he may not vote at all. that may happen with a lot of moderate republicans.they exist, poor wallflowers at the tea party.

    just as progressive democrats are marginalized on the left. interesting how it is the left wing of both parties that now feels left out.

  7. avatar GeoHagop says:

    “…from Bush to Boehner.” In the end, have you no shame?

  8. avatar Noozeyeguy says:

    The Romney campaign has just handed the Democrats one of the GOP’s most treasured and effective weapons: The dreaded “buzzword.” From “tax-and-spend Democrats” in the Reagan era to “Marxist Kenyan” and “death panels” in the current, Republican attack strategy has been neatly encapsulated in this concept, and Democrats from Carter to Kerry have been powerless against it.

    It’s simple, really. Boil your opponent’s message down to a couple or three loaded words, then beat them mercilessly about the head and shoulders with them until they capitulate. Force them into parsing and equivocation, to which the appropriate response is always “There you go again,” preferably with a roll of the eyes. It’s difficult to win an argument when all your responses begin with “Well, yes, but…” It has never mattered if the argument is intellectually dishonest on its face; the goal has always been to just win, baby.

    Now, with the Ryan selection, the Democrats have an ample supply of buzzword-ready concepts in their quiver. “End Medicare,” “gut Social Security,” “tax breaks for the wealthy,” the list goes on… and Romney has just hitched himself firmly to that wagon. He owns it, lock stock and barrel. It doesn’t matter that Ryan is actually right on many things, the simple fact is that so many seniors will be terrified by their looming days of declining health while feasting on Alpo that they won’t hear anything else. So kiss Florida good-bye, probably Pennsylvania and Ohio… and with them, any reasonable chance of winning the White House.

    Looking ahead to 2016: If the GOP penchant for patrilineage continues, Ryan will be the nominee… and we get to have this fight all over again. The Republicans may not have a legitimate shot at the Presidency until 2020 or beyond.

    • avatar cgulli says:

      Noozeyguy, I’m hoping the lesson the Republicans learn from this election, after Romney loses of course, is that they went with the moderate instead of the conservative, and they’d win if only they had picked a true conservative. So the 2016 primary will be about who could be the most right wing, making this cycle’s primary look like the Great Moderate Debate Society.

  9. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    Speaking, you apparently don’t realize the masterly political/media sleight-of-hand the Republicans have managed. They block every Obama move, then declare he’s a president who can’t get anything accomplished. Marvelous. And you fall right into line, yup, yup. Remember one Mitch McConnell declaring the Republicans’ first priority was to ensure that Obama was a one-term president. This is responsible governing? This is rising above partisanship in tough economic times?

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