The Paul Ryan pick and what it tells us about Romney

It was a risk — but a calculated one

(Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyImages)

Rarely have I seen the choice of a vice presidential candidate rally the base of both political parties as much as Paul Ryan’s has. The Republican base, including social conservatives and Tea Partiers, is clearly ecstatic. The Wall Street Journal, with Rupert Murdoch leading the chorus, got the choice it wanted. Movement conservatives like Bill Kristol and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who were never warm to Mitt Romney, will become more vocal in their support of the GOP ticket, and possibly more strident.

Democrats, however, also could hardly contain their glee. Ryan’s nomination, they believe, means shifting the focus of the race from a dangerous referendum on Obama’s policies to one on the direction of the country, including the future of Medicare. This is welcome news. The Romney-Ryan ticket seems to espouse policies similar to those of the Bush administration, and Ryan’s budget proposal goes even further. This means Obama and Biden can go on the attack by pointing to the state of the American economy at the end of the Bush era and questioning why the job losses were averaging around 750,000 a month when they took office. Plus, Democrats believe Ryan’s views on Medicare and Medicaid won’t play well in swing states like Florida and Ohio.

Besides, the Romney-Ryan duo seems weak in an area that is normally a GOP vantage point in presidential contests – national security. They are the least experienced GOP ticket in foreign policy and national security America has seen since the end of World War II. Foreign policy, on the other hand, is where Obama gets his highest approval ratings.

There’s also the cynical view that the conservative movement’s push for Ryan over Rob Portman and Tim Pawlenty may actually be a ploy to sabotage a GOP presidential candidate for which many Republicans feel no love. The VP pick may be more about 2016 than 2012, goes the conspiracy theory: Romney loses and Ryan positions himself as the odds-on favorite to win the next GOP nomination.

Partisan hype aside, though, Mitt Romeny had its reasons for picking Ryan. Amiable and highly respected, he has a defined vision of government and a clear agenda for the future — something Romney the flip-flopper is perceived as lacking. Ryan will force a shift in the public debate away from personality quarrels and toward policy issues and the future of the country. Though venom is sure to remain a trait of this race, American voters will have the chance to choose between competing visions of the future, not just an assessment of the current mood. This election will therefore become about more than just the economy, even though the economy will of course remain a decisive factor in many voters’ minds.

Common wisdom holds that the VP pick rarely affects the November election results. People vote for the top of the ticket. In this case, though, the #2 guy says a lot about the presidential nominee. Here, Romney has shown himself to be methodical and far more serious and calculating in his selection than John McCain was in 2008. The disastrous choice of Sarah Palin by the Arizona senator was allegedly improvised, something Romney had to avoid at all costs. In this regard, he has passed the test, and Obama and Biden are now facing a much stronger ticket than the one they beat in 2008.




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The Paul Ryan pick and what it tells us about Romney

  1. John
    I’d say Willard’s pick of Ryan will be as disastrous as the Palin surprise. The path to disaster will be different, but the result will be the same.
    Ryan is completely different then Palin. He is much more articulate, fast on his feet, and can spin with the best of them. In a word, he is a complete politico. However, his policies and platform are anathema to most people, Pres Obama and team will define Ryan (and Willard by default) in such a way will make him unplatable to everyone but the most embittered Republican.
    Rich vs the middle class – done.
    against a woman’s right to choose – yep
    fiscal fraud – just add up his so-called budget
    tea party / ayn rand zealot – the cognitive dissonance is strong in this one.
    Willard doubled down on his flip-flops to the extreme right that were necessary during the primary. And this was necessary because he alone could not inspire the GOP base. He picked Ryan for the exact same reasons that McCain picked Palin – panic. Team Romney must have some interesting internal polls if this is what they felt they had to do to win the election – a blind swing for the fences that has very low proability of connecting.

  2. esthatic?

    • I see you one “esthatic”, and raise you a “…, Mitt Romeny had its reasons for picking Ryan”.

  3. Predictable column.

    Just curious John…is there anyone Romney could have picked that wouldn’t have made the discussion about his choice? Anyone at all?

    What GOP VP candidate hasn’t been savagely attacked by the mainstream media in the last oh…16 years?

    • No one is allowed to discuss the VP choice??

      • It must be even worse than it appears.

    • They’re clinking glasses over on Fox if that’s what you’re looking for.

    • Yes but that’s only because the Republicans never pick brilliant scientists like Al Gore, upstanding family men like John Edwards, or aphoristic intellectuals like Joe Biden.

      • No, instead they nominate rock-ribbed, no-nonsense leaders like Jack Kemp, Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin.

        “Savagely attacked”…no, instead the media should have pretended that these clown shows were worthy of our respect and serious consideration.

        BTW, I don’t know what you guys were watching/reading over the last few years, but Gore, Edwards and Biden didn’t get easy rides in the media. Talk about savaged, the coverage of Gore’s presidential candidacy was jaw-dropping:

        “October 10: Journalist Margaret Carlson, appearing on Don
        Imus’s radio show to discuss press coverage of Bush and Gore’s first
        debate, notes that Gore is being slammed as a liar because of a few
        exceptionally trivial misstatements. Meanwhile, much larger howlers
        were being ignored, such as misstatements by Bush about major policy
        matters. Carlson explains the double standard: “You can actually
        disprove some of what Bush is saying if you really get in the weeds and
        get out your calculator or you look at his record in Texas. But it’s
        really easy, and it’s fun, to disprove Gore.”

        It was journalistic malpractice. I followed it closely in real time and it was beyond anything – anything – I’ve seen a Republican candidate (or even most Democratic candidates) face.

  4. Ryan is as disastrous a pick as Palin for the same reason – substance. She didn’t have any; his are untenable to the majority of Americans. Additionally, his strident and very, very self assured manner of espousing his ideas, makes him look like the Presidential candidate and Romney the VP pick… The Obama campaign is ecstatic with the choice.

  5. “Romney the flip-flopper”.

    God I miss Mark Steyn. At least he was witty and funny with his obvious bias. This crap just reads like the Democrats’ talking points. *sigh*

    • You have to tone down the expectations a bit with Parisella. He’s coming from the Left, so obvious bias is not frowned upon. Steyn comes from the Right, so obvious bias has to be dressed up with some wit to make it acceptable in a Macleans article.

      • Would you two like some Kleenex?

    • Steyne is calling Romney a milquetoast over on the National Review. He seems to suggest his approach lacks a certain amount of masculinity.

    • Oh, COME ON. Calling Romney a flip-flopper isn’t evidence of bias, it’s evidence of simple observational skills.

      As I read somewhere recently, the fun will really start when Paul Ryan suddenly finds himself inadvertently attacking everything Mitt Romney ever did while Governor.

      • 1) Keeping Guantanamo open
        2) Bringing back military tribunals for terror suspects
        3) Continuing renditions of terror suspects
        4) Ordering military action in Libya without seeking Congressional authorisation
        5) Letting Sudan off the hook for the Darfur genocide
        6) Dumping Mubarak in Egypt after calling him a “stalwart ally”
        7) Killing the NASA manned space program

        So no, it’s not “simple observational skills”, because he’d be calling Obama a flip-flopper if he had any. It’s a blatantly clear indication of Johnny’s bias and partisanship. And your poor defence of him indicates your ideological bias as well.

  6. Other than the part about Sarah Palin, this is dead on.

    As I said in another thread, this pick defines the Romney campaign’s direction as unabashedly conservative.

    Americans will now have a clear choice between reigning in their country’s fiscal and social excesses, or continuing on the path to destruction that they’re currently on.
    The election will clearly delineate this choice and involve a public debate on the issues that matter, although the Obama campaign will doubtless continue to attempt to obfuscate by throwing out lies ranging from scaring seniors unaffected by Ryan’s plan that they have something to fear, to accusing Romney of killing people with cancer. No matter – if it’s Republican ideas as touted by Ryan vs. Democrat personal slurs as touted by Burton, the Republicans should win. And if it’s Republican ideas touted by Ryan vs. Democrat ideas touted by anyone, the Republicans definitely win.

    So the American people will freely make their decision.

    Moments like this are the essence of democratic government: in both its glory and its shortcomings. I envy them this opportunity. Would that we Canadians could have such an open public debate on the issues that matter followed by a clear choice regarding our own destiny.

    • “Americans will now have a clear choice between reigning in their country’s fiscal and social excesses, or continuing on the path to destruction that they’re currently on.”

      Have there been any examples in recent history where a Republican administration actually “reigned in their country’s fiscal…excesses”? All of them since Nixon have preached variations of Milton Friedman’s economic claptrap, and left the country in a far bigger fiscal mess than when they took office. The carefully-cultivated notion that they are competent managers of the economy simply isn’t borne out by historical facts. There’s no reason to believe a Romney administration would be any different.

      • Here’s the data:
        http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/07/government-spending-as-a-percentage-of-gdp-2/

        Note: Spending from 1981 through 2001 generally decreased, thanks to Reagan reining in a Dem Congress and Clinton being reigned in by a Republican Congress. Spending increased somewhat after 9/11 during the Bush years. Spending skyrocketed to the highest level since WW2 after Obama took office. Those are the historical facts. Deal with it.

        The fact that Ryan, the most determined Congressional advocate for entitlement reform and a balanced budget, was chosen as the VP nominee shows that yes, a Romney administration is serious about restraining Federal spending. But even the most profligate of Republicans would be an order of magnitude more restrained than Obama has been.

        • What necessitated the massive expenditures when Obama took office? A mess he’d inherited from W’s foreign wars and, more urgently, a global fiscal crisis triggered by the American financial industry’s cowboy antics in W’s lax regulatory regime.

          The American economy, most crucially housing and the automotive sectors, was circling the drain before Obama came along.

          How about assigning the blame where it belongs.

        • Wow, you are really confused.

          Reagan raised taxes several times

          Clinton had a surplus. Dubya blew it. On stupid wars.

          You cannot serve both God and mammon

          Americans are confusing their political, economic and religious systems

        • “Note: Spending from 1981 through 2001 generally decreased, thanks to Reagan reining in a Dem Congress and Clinton being reigned in by a Republican Congress. Spending increased somewhat after 9/11 during the Bush years. Spending skyrocketed to the highest level since WW2 after Obama took office. Those are the historical facts. Deal with it.”

          As you well know, that chart doesn’t show spending, it shows spending as a percentage of GDP.

          The conclusions you’re drawing from this chart are disingenuous and you know it.

          I guess this is what they mean by “energized” Republicans – they’re back to enthusiastically sucking their own exhaust fumes.


        • Spending from 1981 through 2001 generally decreased, thanks to Reagan reining in a Dem Congress and Clinton being reigned in by a Republican Congress.

          That’s just classic.

          When a Democratic Congress keeps spending in check, it’s because the President forced them too. When a Republican Congress keeps spending in check it’s because the President couldn’t stop them.

          Uh huh.

          • If both parties advocated fiscal sanity, then yes, my interpretation would seem self-serving. However, since it’s common knowledge that the Republicans are heartless bastards who are constantly trying to curtail the social programs on which granny and the poor depend so that they can cut taxes for the rich, while the Democrats are compassionate souls who are constantly battling for the social spending which supports the little guy, and trying to make the rich pay their fair share, it’s really not that much of a stretch. You may have heard of these respective party positions from the completely objective news media.

  7. Romney will win because of this pick. Ryan is a mastermind when it comes to the economic and medicare issues. Don’t worry about shifting the focus of the campaign too much. On August 30, after Romney is declared the official candidate, the GOP can then start spending their money on advertisements that will include attacks on Obama’s poor record. The statistics do not lie. He is a terrible President, and will not win re-election. The focus of the election will not be on a single issue, nor will it continue as a cheap shot attack on Mitt Romney, with liars in advertisements. Romney will have almost $1 Billion to crush Obama, and is fundraising much higher than the President. Obama is gone.

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