This was not the Vice Presidential pick I was expecting. I was going along with the conventional wisdom on this one and assuming either Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty. Usually, you almost always can count on going wrong when relying on the conventional wisdom, but Mitt Romney seems like a conventional wisdom kind of guy, so the safe guesses seemed likely to me. So I was surprised when I heard on the news that Paul Ryan was Romney’s VP pick.
In general terms, Ryan is a good pick. He’s bright; in fact, bright enough that the average IQ of the House of Representatives will drop a good deal when he leaves. He can also present his arguments clearly and concisely. One of my favorite all time political video clips is the Obamacare Health Summit, in which Ryan demolished the fiscal rationale behind the Obamacare CBO report in a few minutes, with a scowling Obama looking on.
Ryan was right on Obamacare, but it still passed.
And that’s the problem with the Ryan pick. The President’s campaign strategy for this year has been to avoid economic issues and engage in personal attacks and demagoguery. That’s the purpose of the various “war on…” ads. 2010’s “Throw Granny off a Cliff,” featuring a Ryan look alike rolling a wheelchair bound grandmother type off the edge of a cliff, is a harbinger of the type of campaign we can expect from the Obama administration. When Democrats portray Republicans, they are usually shown as either stupid or evil, depending on what they think fits better. With Ryan, it’s clearly going to be evil. Will we see ads portraying Ryan as a blade welding, hockey mask wearing killer, slicing and dicing the elderly in rest homes? Don’t laugh; after throwing granny off a cliff, will Ryan stop at nothing?
Ryan doesn’t really bring the key battleground States, like Portman (Ohio) or Rubio (Florida) would. Romney is going for an ideological and ideas pick. With Ryan, he’s showing that the thrust of his administration is going to be to get our fiscal house in order. That’s a great thing and a vital one, but it plays into the Obama administration’s yearlong campaign strategy. The White House is probably popping the corks on the bottles of champagne. If you’re running a campaign based on demagoguery, you couldn’t have hoped for better than a Ryan pick.
Just like on Obamacare, Ryan is right on our budgetary and fiscal issues, but as Obamacare shows, being right doesn’t mean you will win the votes.
Looking at the race in the beginning of the year, I figured it would be Obama winning in a squeaker. Months later, with the Ryan pick, I still lean that way. But at least the battle grounds are clearly drawn, and we know what the race is about: saving our country from fiscal chaos and trying to restore the nation, or stripping the treasury of every dollar and eating our seed corn; eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow we may be a third rate, ruined power. I think if the American people are given that clear choice, they’ll make the right decision. The problem is, the few undecided voters will be viewing the race through the lens of the big three network nightly news programs, and they are all three firmly on Team Obama.