Reporters and pundits in the national press corps continue to yammer about how Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan for a running mate “elevates the debate,” “alters the dynamic” and “focuses the choice” for president.
Calbuzz, although not immune to yammering, sees all this as a bunch of palaver, mostly from bloviating commentators trying to sound erudite and dispassionate. The question the self-proclaimed geniuses never seem to ask is this: What does Ryan bring to the ticket that Romney would not have gotten anyway?
It’s not money: Romney and his super PACs were raising it by the carload already. It’s not moderates, independents, Latinos or women: they will find the Romney-Ryan plan for taxes, Medicare, abortion rights, health care and immigration so radical they will be repulsed.
The latest “theory” is that it’s all about exciting the Republican base because this is a so-called “base election” as opposed to a contest to win over the undecideds, of whom there are said to be only a handful. But GOP base voters already were animated by their hatred of Barack Obama. Even full-throated conservative evangelical Republicans had made it clear they despise the black guy more than they loathe the Mormon
So maybe it’s a couple of counties in Wisconsin. Which – even if Romney can pull off an upset in the Cheesehead State — seems like a lousy trade for Florida, where a huge proportion of voters are on, and happy with, Medicare as we know it. Rob Portman might have gotten him Ohio; Marco Rubio might have nailed down Florida, but what does Ryan bring to Romney? Besides about half a dozen vile members of the Ayn Rand Fan Club?
We asked the members of the Calbuzz Advisory Board of Leading Authorities on Practically Everything – the greatest collection of political minds since John McCain’s vice-presidential selection committee – to give us their analysis. All but one of our Republican panelists think Ryan was an excellent choice, arguing that he can attract independent voters, put Wisconsin in play, adds likability, drives the media to talk about the budget and deficits and solidifies the GOP base vote. One GOP panelist argued that Ryan is a net negative because he puts Medicare front and center, driving seniors to Obama.
That was a near-unanimous analysis from our Democratic panelists – that Ryan forces Romney to defend voucherizing Medicare, cutting taxes on the ultra-rich at the expense of the middle class, giving Florida away, further alienating Latinos and doing little or nothing to bring additional voters to the GOP ticket. As one Democrat put it: “Obama’s weakest demographic is white seniors and Romney has just delivered them on a silver platter for the president.”
One Democratic panelist, however, argued that the “Ryan pick was probably a gamble worth taking” in that it gives Romney a chance to “shake up the race.” That said, this panelist argued, “If the gamble backfires like the Palin pick did for McCain, Romney could lose seniors in Florida and across the swing states and face an electoral landslide loss to Obama.”
Funny how you can never predict what will emerge as a leading issue. Conventional wisdom told us it would be the economy and jobs (not to mention Romney’s trouble, as a Mormon, pulling the evangelical GOP base to his side.) But with Ryan’s budget now front and center, it’s hard to see how Medicare (and perhaps Social Security), taxes and women’s rights (with a late addition of the definition of “legitimate” or “forcible” rape), to name a few issues, won’t dominate the discussions going forward.
Here’s our Republicans
— The net effect will be positive, reminding Democrats to be careful what you wish for. Ryan brings energy and enthusiasm to a ticket facing an incumbent whose wow factor is in the tank. He brings the ability to attract independent voters, as he has proven repeatedly in one of the nation’s most competitive congressional districts. He’s a thoughtful contrast to Biden’s buffoonery, and brings serious policy heft to the economic debate… He puts Wisconsin and other swing states in play, and brings likability to the fight. Very soon, the left’s hysterical attacks against him will sound silly and desperate as more voters get to know him.
— Paul Ryan’s presence drives the press to talk about the budget, entitlement reform, and a deficit that may cripple this country. More than any other candidate, Ryan forces the zeitgeist and opinion shapers to stay focused on this issue. And a consistent debate about the federal budget, managed correctly by the Romney team, is a good debate for them. This has nothing to do with Latinos, women etc. It’s about demanding the Obama campaign talk about these issues everyday this fall. Ryan forces that discussion.
— Paul Ryan is the right choice and, combined with Mitt Romney, produces a ticket that dwarfs the incumbents in terms of the ability to guide America and restore its economy and individual prosperity. Team Obama doesn’t get it. They thought getting elected was the goal, and their dismal four-year performance bears that out. Romney brings executive leadership in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Ryan is a young dynamic leader that knows the federal budget inside and out. Between the two of them, they’re eminently more qualified to not just get elected, but do the job. The shrill attacks from the left tell you everything you need to know about Paul Ryan — he’s got them scared to death.
— Four words: He’s no Sarah Palin. In other words, he wasn’t a game changer, as the polls have already shown, but he’s also substantive and knowledgeable and demonstrates strength on the issue Americans care about the most: the economy. My view is the game change that women, older voters, Latinos and working class Americans want to see this fall is a thoughtful debate on our economic future. Ryan will be able to more than hold his own.
— Ryan seems to represent a strategy to solidify base a la Karl Rove ‘s 2004 strategy. It might work in a low-turnout election. Ryan also adds articulate defense of a budget that arguably would have been hung around Romney’s neck anyway. He affects voting blocs about same as any other finalist — just more exciting and forward-looking. He’ll have a bigger impact in Wisconsin than Rubio would have had in Florida.
— Rubio, Christie and Jindal were my top three choices. I was disappointed in the Ryan pick but have to admit that we all complain we want politicians to address big issues and talk truth to power and when we get them, we take cheap shots at them. The media — and the Democrats — were going to criticize and attempt to undermine anyone Romney selected. This will be a very close race. If Obama is re-elected what will his mandate be? Not to run a private equity firm or strap his dog to the roof of the car?
— The Ryan pick is net negative. Romney has chosen a lightning rod. When you pick a VP to motivate your base, you are losing. Base votes are motivated by hatred of Obama Duh! Romney was supposed to harness discontent with the economy and sweep to victory. If so, why did he pick a guy who requires the campaign to change the subject and talk about Medicare? … My theory on picking a VP: You get a state or you get problems. Romney has chosen the latter. It’s hard to see a congressman having the chops to carry Wisconsin. Portman would have been much better pick to pick up Ohio.
— Paul Ryan is a bold choice by Romney in that he enables the ticket to go on the offense and drive a substantive discussion about the biggest issues of the day — the economy, jobs, the role of government, etc. While it’s true that Ryan presents a mixed bag of positives and negatives for the campaign, given the state of the country and the economy, the time is right to have these policy debates and I think Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are poised to go on the offense, define the problems and lead that debate.
Now the Democrats
— I’ve been scratching my brain to figure out the upside. Bottom line is I don’t see one and I only see a downside. Republicans were already united behind Romney vs Obama and Romney was already raising money hand over fist, so it’s not like he was struggling with his base like McCain was in 2008. And now Romney has to defend the Ryan plan to gut Medicare and cut taxes for the rich while raising taxes for the middle class. This pick tells me that the Romney campaign felt they couldn’t win with the existing dynamic so they needed to try to change the dynamic. But I don’t think it will. Bottom line is, I think this helps improve Obama’s chances of victory and gives Democrats a better chance at winning back the House
— Yes, Ryan’s policy positions are problematic for Romney, but the real problem for the Romney team is that the more voters get to know Paul Ryan, the less they are going to like him. His earnest, “furrowed brow,” I’m-lecturing-to-you affect will eventually turn people off. One look at his response to the president’s State of the Union in 2011 says it all. Romney picked Ryan because he fundamentally likes him. The problem is no one much likes Mitt Romney because he is out of touch and doesn’t connect with people. It makes perfect sense then that Romney likes and would pick the guy who was voted Biggest Brown-noser in high school. In high school parlance of the ‘80s, Ryan is a “tool.” Much like Al Gore was the kid that stayed after class to clap erasers and clean off the black board for the teacher, no one wants to hang out with either one of them. Amazingly, by the time election day arrives, our cerebral, un-empathetic, academic, law professor of a president is going to be the one who voters prefer to have a beer with. And much like in 2000, that’s the guy who will win.
— It was a terrible choice. It damages Romney’s position as the anti-Washington candidate and identifies Romney with the single most unpopular group in America — House Republicans. And that’s before you get to Ryan’s privatize Social Security and Medicare positions, massive cuts to discretionary programs like education, huge tax cuts for the wealthy and a budget that will not be balanced until 2042. Ryan’s choice has moved the debate totally off Obama and the economy.
— After Ryan’s personality and working class background are done being flavor-of-the-week for the national press corps, the only thing Ryan will bring to the ticket is attention to the issues of Medicare and Social Security. Democrats have been trying to make an issue of the House Republican budget and their position on those issues for two years running. With the Ryan announcement, Romney has done that for them. Obama’s weakest demographic is white seniors, and Romney has just delivered them on a silver platter for the President. Say goodbye to Florida, Mitt. And frankly, I can’t wait for the foreign policy questions in the VP debate, given Ryan’s complete lack of experience on that issue.
— The Ryan announcement has produced no notable bounce for Romney, and that is the story of most VP announcements. Choosing Ryan is already energizing the Republican base. That means more money, more volunteers on the ground and a higher turnout of conservative voters in November. Every campaign needs to both to persuade undecided voters and turn out the base. Ryan is a play for the base. The half a billion dollars that Romney and his allies will spend on TV ads will do more to persuade undecided voters than any VP pick could. Ryan does seem to be an effective campaigner, so he could be an asset delivering the daily Romney message. And so far there’s no need to set up a Ryan Gaffe Watch.
— After November, I believe Romney’s choice of Ryan will be viewed as a giveaway of the election to Obama. It is somewhere in between the choices of Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin. Clearly, Ryan is a lot smarter and more conversant in federal issues than Palin, but his selection is, in a way, as much of a hail-Mary pass as John McCain choosing Palin, and may end up with roughly the same result. Like Ferraro, Ryan to the public is an obscure member of a 435-member body who is completely untested and un-vetted nationally. Putting these sorts of unknown commodities on a presidential ticket to be a heartbeat away from the presidency has historically been a mistake (see Barry Goldwater, William Miller; Walter Mondale, Ferraro; McCain, Palin). Plus, Ryan will no doubt hurt Romney with the GOP’s most dependable voting bloc, white seniors, because of his plan to end Medicare as we know it. Past the initial buzz, Ryan will be a drag — perhaps a fatal one — on Romney.
— (Ryan brings) nothing. The base is happy, but no new votes. Florida seniors will worry about Medicare. Romney will still likely lose Wisconsin. Ryan is the ideological right’s minder of a candidate they don’t trust. Net impact on election results: zero. Like most VP candidates.
— Romney was on his way to electoral defeat before picking Ryan. He was losing ground to Obama across the Midwest, from Wisconsin to Michigan, Ohio and through Pennsylvania. Had he played it safe with a Postman [Rob Portman] or Tpaw [Tim Palenty] he would have almost certainly lost. The Ryan pick is probably a gamble worth taking. He probably still loses, but there is a chance he can shake up the race. No other pick gave him that chance. That said, if the gamble backfires like the Pain pick did for McCain, Romney could lose seniors in Florida and across the swing states and face an electoral landslide loss to Obama.
— Ryan brings some warm blood – but that’s about it. It is hard to see how he helps with any of the swing voters/states in this equation. In fact, he is a detriment in Florida and the Southwest with older voters and Latinos.
— VP nominations are always overrated. Ryan is a nice nod to the Tea Party, but Romney has spent the last five days furiously separating himself from the very ideas that supposedly prompted him to pick Ryan in the first place. The pick has become just the latest example of the Romney campaign’s complete inability to take a firm position or craft a compelling narrative for their candidate.
— Ryan does very little for the ticket, all the way around. The R-R campaign has said that this was Romney’s choice. So, he gets to own it. It’s already put him in the position of looking like he didn’t think it all the way through because the campaign is having trouble differentiating what Romney agrees with and disagrees with on the Ryan plan. As opposed to Romney, Ryan has a fully realized economic plan. And it will scare the crap out of seniors and most voters who read it. So, besides Republican base voters, who needed a reason to get out and vote, I don’t see where Ryan helps. Maybe Wisconsin? Ryan’s votes hurt him with swing voters so that’s no help either. But then, I think vice presidential picks are way over-rated from the standpoint of what they do for the ticket.