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Saturday, August 11, 2012

My Take on Mitt Romney Choosing Paul Ryan for V.P.

This seemed like as good a time as any to get back into the blogging swing of things...

Today it appears that Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney will proclaim to the world that Paul Ryan is his choice for vice President. Let me first say that I'm not the political junkie I once was. For me, American politics has lost a lot of its former luster and interest. I've simply grown tired of the predictable script that both Democrats and Republicans (and even Independents) act out, and the unavoidable doomsday rhetoric that both pundits and the populace seem to embrace without even attempting to engage in the smallest measure of communal discourse. This now boring apocalyptic tug-o-war has worn me out to the point that I am forced to agree with the words of Winston Churchill, who aptly stated:

The best argument against a democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
Amen. To be honest, I don't care who wins the 2012 election. Honestly. It means very little to me. Of course, you may think to yourself that my view is jaded or downright cynical and that's fine. I have no need to explain myself. I feel the way I feel and I am comfortable with it. With that said, I do offer up the following critique of Mr. Romney's selection, if for nothing more than to get back into the blogging flow, spark a meaningful discussion and illustrate that my disgust with American politics isn't based in ignorance, but rather on a healthy aversion to the lazy, boring and oftentimes stupid manner in which Americans (both on the left and the right) conduct their political affairs.

So, without further delay, here are my Paul Ryan pro’s and con’s:

Pros:

1.) “It’s the economy, stupid.” Romney’s decision to pick Paul Ryan reveals the fact that he has chosen to go all in with the message of austerity and deficit reduction. This is a strong message that does have large appeal with many voters, especially in the wake of America’s financial struggles. Ryan has been a passionate advocate for a dramatic reduction in spending, and his nomination to the V.P. signals that the Romney campaign intends to go full speed ahead with its message that President Obama’s economic policies have failed. This will be their singular message, and I believe they intend to ride this horse all the way to November.  All the eggs are officially in one basket.

2.) Paul Ryan will energize the conservative base. There is no doubt that the Tea Party crowd loves this guy. He’s a skilled hunter, a conservative “number cruncher,” a vocal opponent to all things Obama, a fitness buff and a die-hard Green Bay Paker’s fan. =)

3.) Paul Ryan could deliver some battleground states in the Great Lakes region. Aside from possibly swinging Wisconsin to the red, Romney’s decision to pick Paul Ryan reveals that he has decided bank on the Great Lakes region as a plausible road to the White House.  Can Ryan help to deliver Michigan? How might this pick help to influence neighboring battleground states like Iowa and Ohio? Hard to say, but it is clear that this is the region of the country that will become most important to the Romney/Ryan ticket.

4.) Youth and Energy.  Paul Ryan’s youth and energy will reinvigorate a race that has been sinking. Let’s face it; the Romney campaign has been losing steam and taking on water all summer. Romney simply isn’t the most appealing guy to average American voters. The same cannot be said for his younger and more energetic running mate...at least not yet. Paul Ryan has been known for his competitive streak, his high level of energy and his lack of fear when squaring off with more seasoned political opponents. Ryan is a fitness buff.  He's a P90X, Crossfit junkie. His energy level alone will invigorate this campaign.  Might this be the shot in the arm that the Romney camp needs?

Cons:

1.) Goodbye Florida. Choosing Paul Ryan has made it increasingly unlikely that Mitt Romney will carry arguably the most important swing state of the past 40 years. Though Ryan’s message of deficit reduction is quite popular with conservative voters, his quest to transform and cut Medicare is going to anger older voters. This may very well be the single biggest negative that Paul Ryan will bring to the Romney ticket. How they will convince a large and very important voting block (especially in Florida) is going to be one hell of a challenge.

2.) Women Voters. One of Romney’s biggest hurdles has been the gender gap. Simply put, Obama is destroying him when it comes to the ladies. And though picking Paul Ryan is going to please most conservative men, this doesn’t help him in any way with the growing divide he has with women.  Most "experts" were expecting Romney to pick somebody that would help in this area.  Paul Ryan doesn't seem to fit that bill.

3.) Lack of Experience. This almost always seems to be an issue with at least one of the vice Presidential candidates.  It is certainly true that Paul Ryan has emerged as a shining star for fiscal conservatives, but this is pretty much all Ryan can list on his resume. Paul Ryan has no experience outside of representing his district and has received few accolades for anything outside of the financial arena (and on this he is not popular with moderates and liberals). While Romney and Ryan will likely be very strong on issues relating to the economy, it is also just as likely that Obama and Biden will be dominant on any issues relating to foreign policy, defense, social issues, etc.

4.) A Mormon, a Catholic and Image Issues. Maybe I am making more of this than I should, but are Evangelical voters really going to get excited about a Mormon/Catholic ticket? I realize that Evangelical voters loved Rick Santorum (a Catholic as well) but there is a different feel when it comes to Ryan. Of course, Ryan isn't the religious zealot that Santorum is, and maybe this is a positive for Romney.  But are people going to worry about Roman popes and Utah prophets secretly getting involved with Washington politics? It’s not that crazy of a suggestion, as many voters have posed these concerns in the past. I’m not saying I share them, only that some voters do. In addition, I think that the Romney/Ryan ticket may have some image problems. Are voters really going to respond to a couple of private sector, business-loving White guys in expensive suits talking about money all day? Only time will tell.

Either way this plays out, I am intrigued by Romney’s choice. Paul Ryan is a bold selection, and for a man who has been anything but bold throughout his campaign, maybe the change will be good medicine for the Romney ticket. Most were expecting Romney to pick an “established” candidate; somebody who could possibly deliver Ohio (Rob Portman) or Florida (Marco Rubio), or even help bridge the gender gap (Condoleezza Rice), but Romney went another direction. As a result, this election is going to be about one big thing: THE ECONOMY!  The political battle lines have been very clearly drawn.  Romney/Ryan will be a ticket that presents itself as the embodiment of fiscal conservatism and smaller deficit spending that opposes all things Obama. Will the message resonate? Can Romney win without Florida? Can he overcome the gender gap?  I don’t know but I do think that 2012 will be closer than 2008.

As far as a V.P. pick goes, I have to tip my hat to Mitt Romney.  I think this was a smart political move. Sure, he could have picked a woman or somebody who could help with an important battleground state, but when you think of what you want from a vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan delivers.  Energize the base: check.  Capacity to deliver strong speeches on key divisive issues: check.  Ability to stand up against political opponents: check.  Help to make clear distinctions and alternatives to those of your opponent: check.  This was a smart move politically for Mitt Romney.  Paul Ryan is not the high risk, high reward pick...er...DEBACLE that Sarah Palin was for John McCain.  Does he have what it takes to step into the big, national arena? We're all about to find out.  Ryan is a smart and very politically savvy individual who has shown in the past that he has no fear of going toe-to-toe with Obama.  Paul Ryan is also a self-made, hard working figure with blue collar roots, who will help to alleviate at least some of the attention directed at Mitt Romney for being just another out of touch rich guy.   

But in the end, I still have to give the edge to President Barack Obama. Mitt Romney's general lack of appeal, coupled with his reputation as a flip-flopper, are major hurdles facing his campaign.  And a V.P. candidate, no matter how solid, can only do so much.  Romney still faces an uphill road.  Incumbents are, historically, hard to beat.  My prediction: Obama wins reelection by an Electoral College score of 298-240.

But hey, I’m still holding out hope for that elusive 269-269 tie, which would be an AWESOME mess! Oh, and it’s a future blog post that is coming up in a few weeks. What would happen in the event of a 269-269 tie?

Stay tuned.