Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The Days of Ryan and Roses
After months of speculation, Governor Romney chose his running mate last weekend. Despite rumors of picking a campaign rival/ideological opposite, a fan favorite like Chris Christie, or a "safe" pick like Rob Portman, Romney chose Paul Ryan. This was good news for the GOP, who have perceived the notoriously austere congressman from south central Wisconsin as a rising star in the party, and equally delightful news for the Democrats, who have plenty of ammunition with his name on it. Anyone expecting another Sarah Palin was either relieved or disappointed, depending upon who you ask.
I may not agree with Rep. Ryan politically, he seems like an intelligent, sincere, and thoughful guy. This pick was everything in Palin in '08 wasn't: Ryan is not looking for celebrity, and his bark has bite. Ryan's not fishing around for buzzwords like "grizzly mama," he's a straight talker. I'm almost certain he can hold his own in an extensive interview with Katie Couric. He's a fiscal conservative but a social moderate, as evidenced by his somewhat torpid support for gay rights. As far as everything else is concerned, the congressman tips imperceptibly more to the right than the ex-governor.
With that said, Rep. Ryan does face one major issue: marketing himself to the mainstream. He's an economic wonk, more comfortable laying out an agenda than stumping on the campaign trail. For better or worse, he's the nerd candidate. He's the chess club captain, not the all-conference running back. His connections to the Tea Party movement are prevalent but loose; most criticisms of Ryan being a champion of "top down" economic policies are accurate, and he wholeheartedly supported TARP. In short, he's a DC insider representing a party where outsiders have the loudest voices. His charisma could be the X-factor.
So what does this mean for the election? The first post-Ryan poll suggests a minimal impact, with Romney and Obama still running in dead heat. From a financial perspective, the GOP war chest and SuperPACs keep on chuggin' along, raising record amounts of money. Also, the Ryan pick gives Romney a slight advantage in Wisconsin, which post-recall has become an apparent swing state. At the moment, the bluster is rising but the stances are unwavering; the Obama/Biden ticket was expected to reinforce their core, but like Romney/Ryan they're gained little new ground. Independents and undecideds remain a tough crowd, fighting to decide between two candidates with equally uninspiring economic platforms, more innately drawn to attacking each other than expounding ideas.