Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Romney's bold conservative choice for VP - Should elevate the debate and draw lines more distinctly between Obama and Romney.

It's interesting reading the take on Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice president running mate.  Liberals think it's great because Ryan is so conservative.  Conservatives are pumped up because Romney added a favorite of conservatives to the ticket.

I saw Minnesota Public Television's "Almanac" segment, recorded before the announcement, which talked about who Romney might pick.  The moderate/liberal university talking heads said Romney needed to pick a moderate to appeal to moderates.  Romney did the exact opposite.

Who's right?  As one person said on Almanac, people will ultimately decide based on the presidential candidates not the VPs.  But I think Ryan will have an indirect effect which will be important for the Romney ticket.  First, it will energize the conservative base which has harbored suspicions about Romney's conservative bonafides.  Ryan will excite his conservative base.
And second, it will draw the lines more sharply between Romney and Obama in the campaign. I think that will elevate the debate.  I think Obama campaign will be on a search and destroy mission because he really has nothing to run on which a majority of the American people like, e.g. state of economy and Obamacare.  So they'll trash Ryan and by association Romney for Ryan's budget plans.  However, this will focus attention on the state of the economy and the tremendous danger facing the US financially with its enormous debt and deficits, for which Obama's seemingly only answer, at best, is raising taxes.
I found John Fund's take on Ryan interesting.  In a column entitled, "Smart Democrats should be worried."  He points out some things I didn't know about Ryan.  For one, he repeatedly won a democrat district in southern Wisconsin by wide margins not by running from his conservative fiscal views but by explaining them.  When he did that, the people agreed with him.
First, if Ryan is an extremist and his proposals are so unpopular, how has he won election seven times in a Democratic district? His lowest share of the vote was 57 percent — in his first race. He routinely wins over two-thirds of the vote. When Obama swept the nation in 2008, he carried Ryan’s district by four points. But at the same time, Ryan won reelection with 65 percent of the vote, meaning that a fifth of Obama voters also voted for him.

Ryan has pointed out to me that no Republican has carried his district for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984. “I have held hundreds of town-hall meetings in my district explaining why we have to take bold reform steps, and I’ve found treating people like adults works,” he told me. “All those ads pushing elderly woman off the cliffs don’t work anymore if you lay out the problem.”
Second, Democrats know that Ryan has Reaganesque qualities that make him appealing to independent, middle-class voters. Take the cover story on Ryan that the Isthmus, a radically left-wing Madison, Wis. newspaper, ran on him in 2009. “Ryan, with his sunny disposition and choirboy looks, projects compassion and forcefully proclaims dedication to his district,” the story reported. “And he’s proved he is not unyieldingly pro-corporate, as when he recently joined in condemnation of AIG ‘retention’ bonuses.”
Third, Ryan’s ideas aren’t that novel or scary. The idea of “premium support” for Medicare, which would change the program’s one-size-fits-all policy to a private-insurance model with public options, was endorsed by a bipartisan commission appointed by Bill Clinton back in the 1990s. Late last year, Ryan announced a new version of his proposal with a new partner signing on: Democratic senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who first achieved political prominence as an advocate for seniors.

Four, Ryan puts Wisconsin and its ten electoral votes in play. Polls have shown that President Obama holds a five to seven point lead in Wisconsin — significant, but much less than Obama’s 14-point margin in 2008. With Ryan on the ticket, polls show the race is dead even.

Five, if Republicans were looking for a superior candidate, they’ve found it in Ryan. His maiden speech as the GOP vice-presidential candidate was perfectly pitched:

We won’t duck the tough issues . . . we will lead!

We won’t blame others…we will take responsibility!

We won’t replace our founding principles . . . we will reapply them!

Echoes of Ronald Reagan at his best.

Ryan was judged to have already had the better of President Obama in televised exchanges on Obamacare. His debate with Joe Biden this October might well be remembered as cruel and unusual punishment for dim vice presidents. Recall that Sarah Palin fought a much more engaged Joe Biden to a draw in their 2008 vice-presidential debate.

Six, as Democratic consultant Joe Trippi acknowledged today on Fox News, Ryan will bring in a flood of donations from overjoyed conservatives and tea-party members. Romney had a problem with energizing the GOP base. That problem is now solved, and that will make it easier to pump up conservative turnout.

Democrats will no doubt try to make Paul Ryan into a younger version of the devil they’ve tried to paint Mitt Romney as. But they should worry about fighting a campaign on fundamental issues in a weak economy. That’s precisely how Jimmy Carter, the last Democratic president to run for reelection during hard times, wound up losing so badly that it not only cost Democrats control of the U.S. Senate but damaging the liberal brand for years afterwards.
As for the Carter/Reagan campaign.  Carter led up until the final two weeks and then lost in landslide.  I've always felt the race is Romney's to lose.  We'll have to see if that's the case.

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