Oh well, it looks like someone broke the Etch-A-Sketch. After being hagridden for the past few weeks by the talking heads of America’s far right from Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity to Ann Coulter to finally Laura Ingraham who said “I might be the skunk at the picnic, but I’m going to say it and I’m going to say it clearly, “Romney is losing.”; Mitt Romney may have elected for what amounts to a the ultimate “Hail Mary” pass in finally settling on Paul Ryan for his V.P. pick. After all when one of the country’s most stridently didactic ideologues, Erick Erickson, comes out and says “Conservatives have put aside their distrust of Romney on this issue [Romney's Massachusetts Health Care Law] in the name of beating Barack Obama. They thought he and his campaign team had gotten the message and the hints. Consider the scab picked, the wound opened, and the distrust trickling out again.” – did Romney have any other choice? Other possible contenders like Rob Portman and Tim Pawlenty would have amounted to adding more blandness to an already bland campaign. Marco Rubio, a definite Tea Party favorite, was just too inexperienced, Chris Christie too bombastic and disinterested anyway. However the real question is will the selection of Paul Ryan ultimately doom Romney’s hopes of being elected? Has Romney now baked failure into his own cake?

Romney has been stumbling and fumbling of late having been successfully “swift boated” by the Obama machine and for the lingering questions related to releasing more tax returns as well as questions as to would he ever define what he’d actually do as president. Recent polling, for what it’s worth in August, showed Romney slipping behind Obama, especially in swing states. By selecting Paul Ryan, Romney has added substance to a campaign seen to be largely devoid of it. However, what if Romney has added the wrong ingredients to his political stew? After all Paul Ryan’s budget plans have never been popularly embraced in the body politic beyond ultraconservatives. Quoting Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider “It hasn’t been polled for a while, but most polls of Ryan’s budget plan don’t produce sparkling reviews. Ryan’s proposal didn’t poll well in a May 2011 CNN survey, which showed that 48 percent of respondents preferred President Barack Obama’s approach to Medicare compared to 39 percent on the plan spearheaded by Ryan. Overall, about 20 percent more people opposed Ryan’s Medicare plan than supported it. The poll also found that both younger and older voters were cool to Ryan’s plan. Forty-three percent of voters 64 years old and younger thought Ryan’s plan’s changes would make things at least a “little worse off.” And 58 percent of respondents 65 and older said the same thing — including 33 percent who said it would make them “a lot worse off.” Finally, 50 percent of voters overall thought it would make the country worse off as a whole, compared with 38 percent who said it would make it better. The most eye-popping stat from the poll? More than a quarter of Republicans — and 35 percent of self-identified conservatives — opposed the Ryan plan.” Furthermore, the selection of Ryan allows Obama to bring the issue of a do nothing obstructionist Congress squarely to center stage. With congressional approval ratings at an all time low, particularly for Republicans, and public frustration with Congressional Tea Party obstruction more or less a constant, Paul Ryan will act as a handy punching bag for the Obama machine thereby saddling Romney with the negatives that flow from this highly unpopular Republican dominated Congress. Thus it’s not likely that Paul Ryan will save Mitt Romney any more than Sarah Palin was able to revitalize the McCain campaign.

In an environment where the public longs for bi-partisan cooperation and problem solving the selection of Ryan sends a message that compromise isn’t on the agenda for the G.O.P. Nate Silver of the New York Times in an article titled “A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan” suggests that Romney’s choice of Ryan has less to do with pressure from the ideological purists on the right and more to do with the fact that Romney himself realized that his campaign was faltering: “When a prudent candidate like Mitt Romney picks someone like Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, it suggests that he felt he held a losing position against President Obama. The theme that Mr. Romney’s campaign has emphasized for months and months — that the president has failed as an economic leader — may have persuaded 47 or 48 or 49 percent of voters to back him, he seems to have concluded. But not 50.1 percent of them, and not enough for Mr. Romney to secure 270 electoral votes.” Silver goes on to show how Paul Ryan, on the basis of political philosophy, is the most ideologically extreme pick for Vice president ever: “Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota…Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900. He is also more conservative than any Democratic nominee was liberal, meaning that he is the furthest from the center.” In a country seen as being fairly split down the middle and with politics being played, as conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer says, “between the 40 yard lines” it would appear that picking the most conservative running mate ever would be a losing proposition if not a reckless one.

Time and again we’ve heard the ideologues on the far right state that when the G.O.P. picks candidates that stray from the movement’s core conservative values the party loses. John McCain is held up as the latest example of this and more often than not Ronald Reagan is held up a an example of what being true to core conservative values is all about. The only problem with that is the fact that Reagan was conservative in his rhetoric but he was hardly a guy to trim the size of government, cut taxes or attempt to dismantle the social safety net. Moreover, he was a master at compromise, something that today’s conservatives detest. Suffice it to say that even Ronald Reagan would have problems in today’s Republican Party, how could he not? Historically the issues that Ryan has raised in his budget and which the Tea Party backed Republicans in Congress have taken on are political losers for the G.O.P. John Harris and Mike Allen writing for Politico pointed out “It is hard to overstate the risks Romney is taking in making a choice that virtually guarantees a far-reaching debate about the broader role of government and the entitlement state. Simply put, it is a debate Republicans have almost never won when they’ve put it directly before voters in the past.”

Thus in picking a candidate that more than ever personifies the values of the far right what are we to conclude of the logic inherent in the conservative mantra “that when the G.O.P. picks candidates that stray from the movement’s core conservative values the party loses.” if they indeed go on to lose this election? Will picking Paul Ryan then be seen to be a mistake as it moved the Romney message beyond the pale of the moderates and independent voters thereby costing the Republican Party what should have been an easy victory? For one thing there’s no evidence I’ve ever seen that suggests that a president is elected because of the guy he picked to be vice president. In fact Nate Silver’s article shows that vice presidential picks have more downside to them than upside. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I believe that Ryan will ultimately have a downside impact on Romney’s chances of being elected. Secondly now that Romney has saddled him with Ryan and his unpopular reputation for cutting back on entitlements, privatizing them where possible and cutting taxes on the richest among us the election has ceased to be a referendum on Obama’s performance and has become a choice election between two competing visions of America. Obama was unlikely to win on a straight referendum of his economic performance but his chances have now improved in the long haul due to the negatives that come with Paul Ryan, his budgetary ideas and his recycled supply-side economic theories that have already been tired and seen to fail in the past. In the short run Romney’s numbers may see a brief boost in the ratings game but in the long run Ryan and his ultra conservative baggage are more likely to be an albatross around Mitt Romney’s neck ands that’s hardly where a candidate wants to be heading into a presidential election.

S.J. Gulitti

8/13/12

Sources:

Laura Ingraham Tears Into Romney Campaign: He Needs New Communications Team, Strategy; http://www.mediaite.com/online/laura-ingraham-tears-into-romney-campaign-he-needs-new-communications-team-strategy/

Romney aide’s health care remarks spark flap; http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2012/08/andrea-saul-health-care-romney-/1#.UCP5E6Pxrs1

Should Mitt Romney fire his spokeswoman?; http://theweek.com/article/index/231814/should-romney-fire-his-spokeswoman

Rush Limbaugh Wants Mitt Romney To Fire His Top Advisors And Hire ‘Real Conservatives’; http://www.businessinsider.com/rush-limbaugh-romney-obama-romneycare-eric-fehrnstrom-conservatives-2012-8#ixzz23Ssl5YRm

The Moment All the Doubts About Romney Resurfaced on the Right; http://www.redstate.com/erick/2012/08/08/the-moment-all-the-doubts-about-romney-resurfaced-on-the-right/

Here’s The Gigantic Risk Mitt Romney Is Taking With Paul Ryan; http://www.businessinsider.com/paul-ryan-polls-show-mitt-romney-is-taking-a-huge-risk-2012-8#ixzz23T0fbbAH

A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan; http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/11/a-risky-rationale-behind-romneys-choice-of-ryan/

Paul Ryan Is The Most Extreme VP Candidate In More Than A Century; http://www.businessinsider.com/paul-ryan-is-the-most-extreme-vp-candidate-in-more-than-a-century-2012-8#ixzz23T5scKC6

Pros And Cons: Ryan As Romney’s VP; http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2012/aug/11/pros-and-cons-ryan-as-romneys-vp/

Paul Ryan VP pick shakes up Mitt Romney battle plan; http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79598.html#ixzz23TDUPK36