Saturday morning, standing in front the USS Wisconsin, Paul Ryan – Mitt Romney’s newly announced running-mate – delivered an impassioned speech to conservative supporters. Now, I find it difficult, if not painful, to listen to the Right for any longer than it takes to make Ramen noodles. Somewhere after Ryan’s declaration to small business owners that “You did build that!” – the GOP’s answer to “Yes, We Can!” – my analysis of the man’s added value began.
A brief biography – Paul Ryan served Wisconsin’s 1st District for seven terms, developed the budget plan that contains the heart of the GOP platform, and is part of the trio of House Republicans leaders who call themselves the “Young Guns.” Like Romney, Ryan lacks any foreign policy experience – besides supporting high levels of defense spending. Romney’s deficiency in this area belied the need for a running mate with a strong foreign policy record according to conservative pundits like Matt Drudge, who concocted a movement to have General Petraeus as Romney’s right-hand man. However, the rationale and necessity for the Ryan VP pick are abundant.
Youth + Enthusiasm
At 42, Ryan serves as an injection of youthful energy to a flagging campaign. On the campaign trail, Vice Presidents typically take the role of the attack dog. Ryan offers strong-handed criticism of Obama with a charisma that far surpasses Mitt Romney. Then again, that bar is harder to limbo under than step over. Many pundits claimed that Mitt Romney would not select a running mate that would overshadow him, but he did – which reinforces the narrative that Mitt’s stump speech has thus far failed to sway the electorate.
The past two elections, the GOP nominee has selected a running mate which galvanizes the base. Paul’s conservative bona fides far surpass those at the top of the ticket – though he wasn’t always such a fiscal hawk during the Bush administration – without the embarrassment of any Momma Grizzly comparisons. The Tea Party and right-wing activists have found their white knight, as recounted by Erick Erickson.
A House Republican Leader
This selection reinforces the common belief that Mitt Romney, the weather vane, is beholden to the conservative wing of the GOP. It is no coincidence that Mitt chose his running mate from the House of Representatives, where the influx of Tea Party representatives who have controlled the party since 2010 are concentrated. Mitt will faithfully rubber-stamp the Ryan Budget – or for that matter, any piece of legislation sent to him by a Republican-controlled Congress.
Mitt’s handlers know the electoral math, like his tax plan, just doesn’t add up. Karl Rove has written about Romney’s 3-2-1 path to the White House. The plan is, simply, that after taking all red 2008 states, Romney needs to win:
3-Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia – traditionally Republican states that went to Obama
2-Florida and Ohio, the two battleground states
1-Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, or WISCONSIN
No doubt, the re-election of Gov. Scott Walker in the WI recall along with the most recent Rasmussen poll, which shows Romney trailing Obama by three percentage points in Wisconsin, has emboldened Republicans to believe the state is on the table. However, whatever value added by Paul Ryan in Wisconsin may be negated by his impact in Florida, where a high population of senior citizens will surely hold him responsible for his budget, which ends Medicare as we know it.
Mitt Romney has taken it on the chin recently, seeing his favorability ratings plummet in the past month. Though a third of voters express no opinion on Ryan, his net favorability rating is +14. Mitt barely polls that well within his own family. In his speech, Ryan denounced the mud-slinging tactics of the Obama campaign which appeal to the lowest common denominator. The selection of Ryan is a sign that the GOP will attempt to “go positive” to appeal to voters. However, Mitt’s record has taken a beating, so what is left to go positive on but…
Undoubtedly the most important implication of Paul Ryan is that his presence signals an abrupt turn to policy. No longer can Romney campaign on his record at Bain and success as a “job creator.” Colleagues describe Ryan as wonkish and an intellectual leader. Ryan needs to be that and more, for he has a daunting task ahead of him. It will be his job to champion the conservative policies of deregulation, tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy and inadequate health care – because the GOP, and Romney, its standard-bearer, have nothing left to run on but their past failures.
Guest post by Lucas J. Kawa of the blog Young, Green and Blue.