Ryan’s Mitt Romney problem
Vice presidential pick aims to repair damage done during primaries
With the selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney may be following in John McCain’s footsteps. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images / August 16, 2012)
By Charles M. Madigan
August 16, 2012
Vice presidential choices almost always get the same kind of “game-changer” response from the punditry, perhaps because the selection comes so late in the process that people are just worn out.
So, as an alternative to “Barack Obama is turning the United States into a socialist country,” and “Mitt Romney is a robber baron right out of the 19th century,” watching everyone pay attention to Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan is refreshing.
But think about it for a while.
He is a well-liked man, a respected family man, a solid Wisconsin presence, comfortable in his own shoes. Very engaging. Very Roman Catholic. Small town and fresh. Young. Wholesome as cheddar cheese. Most of all, quite conservative.
Here is why that is important.
Romney is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee that lots of people are having trouble falling in love with, other than to fall in love with the idea that he is literally the most “Anybody but Obama” candidate the Republicans could find.
This is a consequence of letting that hatred for Obama define almost every aspect of the Republican primary election process. It became a mantra, “Anybody but Obama,” that opened the doorway to a candidate who is an amalgam of Republican politics past, Republican angers present, but maybe not Republican politics future.
The criticism of Romney is that he seems politically soulless, that he will be whatever he has to be given the moment.
And that is where Paul Ryan comes in.
He is going to be Mitt Romney’s public soul.
Four years ago, the most conservative part of the Republican Party was so deeply disconnected from candidate John McCain that it festered in the lonely wastes until McCain called Gov. Sarah Palin in — fresh Alaskan conservative blood that she represented — to calm anxiety on the right.
You might think that didn’t work, and for sure, it didn’t win the election for McCain (another Republican who was not really deeply loved by a lot of Republicans.) But it did plant the seeds that grew into the tea party presence and conservative resurgence that defines so much of the party’s energy going into the November contest.
McCain took a shot at a daring, game changing running mate, and for sure, it changed the game. Just not the game he thought he was playing. It was pretty clear by election 2008 that Palin was a lot more popular with Republicans of deep passion than McCain was.
So he lost.
That’s because vice presidential candidates don’t win elections.
This may be a lesson Romney has to learn the hard way.
He has made a move in selecting Ryan that strongly appeals to a base he should have had in his pocket months and months ago. The decision looks daring at the outset, but it draws skeptics into deep thoughts about what the primary election process is intended to do.
Back when the Republicans were advancing a “flavor of the week” throughout all those primary states, the thinking might have been that the party was just shopping around. But that wasn’t the case. Its most aggressive wing, the far-right wing, was vetting candidates and finding it all but impossible to advance anyone’s horse past the next collection of primary elections.
Romney, then, got the nomination almost by default. Everyone else ran out of money or energy. Rick Santorum ran out of Catholics. Newt Gingrich ran out of Las Vegas bankroller. Finally, by dint of finance and persistence, Mitt Romney won the day.
But not the party.
And that’s the problem with Paul Ryan’s selection as vice presidential candidate.
Once again, the damages created during a long and vexing campaign that had “Anybody but Obama” as its fuel, must be repaired now by a candidate who is not enough of a shape shifter. So he reaches out and finds a running mate that “transforms” the situation.
Ryan comes with a track record much stronger than Palin’s, which is an asset and a liability on issues like birth control, Medicare funding, cutting social programs and an array of other right-of-center landmarks. One would think people moved by those issues had already made up their minds.
It’s risky to spend too much time reliving the last presidential campaign, because they are all indeed different.
But the temptation this time is to ask whether Romney has taken a card from McCain’s deck, the daring gesture aimed at fixing all those ideological problems spawned during the primaries.
The difference is that Ryan is smart and Sarah Palin was not. The question is whether that will matter.
- Romney’s Ryan pick makes election a referendum on health care (bostonherald.com)
- Paul Ryan: Medicare Debate Is One We Want To Have (VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Video: Romney: Obama will “do anything” to get re-elected (cbsnews.com)
- Watch: Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan Medicare Plans ‘Close to Identical’ (abcnews.go.com)
- [link] The ultra-conservative Paul Ryan is the target Obama wanted most (slendermeans.wordpress.com)
- Romney Gets No Bounce in Polls From Ryan Pick (newser.com)
- What sort of man is Paul Ryan? (english.ruvr.ru)
- Janesville Native Paul Ryan Named Vice Presidential Running Mate to Gov. Mitt Romney (prweb.com)
- Mitt’s Paul Ryan bounce: Not yet, according to Gallup poll (blogs.suntimes.com)
- Republican Hopeful Ducks Questions About Paul Ryan’s Proposals (huffingtonpost.com)