Saving Privatizer Ryan
It was the best of choices. It was the worst of choices.
The selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as runningmate has a lot to offer the Mitt Romney campaign: catnip for the conservative base, intellectual heft, a genuine national vision, blue-collar credentials, years of Washington experience, youth, vigor, a likeable personality—and political suicide.
It was thus an oddly timed Hail Mary pass—one of the few real risks the stolid GOP standard-bearer has taken.
The decision to make the announcement on a Saturday morning following leaks late Friday night, before the Olympics were over, was a sign of desperation. It was far more logical to roll out the choice over a couple of days—starting, say, Tuesday after the end of the games—and get more mileage out of it. But Romney had an incredibly bad week last week, culminating in his plea for a moratorium on further discussion of his tax plan, tax returns and tenure as head of Bain Capital. (Fat chance the Obamians would agree!)
Had the Romneyhoods not made this quick move to change the subject, you can bet we would have another full weekend of chatter about his declining poll and likeability numbers, his absentee tax returns, his misleading ads, his spokesperson’s health-care gaffe, speculation on Harry Reid’s deep-throated sources (if any) and related comedic fodder.
Of course they will deny that the choice was made in response to a mounting conservative roar and assert that the timing was planned well in advance. Of course you must believe them because politicians never lie—and, as some Washington wit once said, a gaffe is when they accidentally tell the truth.
Anyway, the deed is done. Ryan gave a decent if unexciting or charismatic speech, the weekend yakkers have yakked, and now the elementary issues rise again.
First, apart from the youth, vigor, intellectual heft and other advantages cited above, how does Ryan enhance Romney’s electability?
Can he deliver a swing state leaning blue? Unlikely. According to the New York Times’ Nate Silver, Ryan’s favorables are 38 percent vs. 33 percent unfavorable in his home state of Wisconsin. He might add a point, but Obama is ahead there by at least 6.
His regular-guy style is attractive, but people rarely for vote for vice president and he is not charismatic enough to overcome Romney’s stiffness.
But this very smart disciple of ur-capitalist/individualist Ayn Rand will surely energize the conservative base. Ryan will also get media props for sticking to his guns.
But there’s the rub: his most famous guns are privatizing social security, slashing Medicaid and ending Medicare as we know it—turning it into a voucher program for future retirees. Can’t you hear the cheers and applause from Florida, Arizona and all such places where the elderly have long awaited an end to those terrible government programs? Nor will those cheers drown out the calls for Romney’s tax returns.
Most delicious will be endless replays of the talk show where Newt Gingrich condemns Privatizer Ryan’s plan as “right-wing social engineering.”
Way to go, Newt!
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer
image Saving Private Ryan movie still