Monday, August 13, 2012

The Ryan pick: It ain't over 'til it's over

By now, pretty much everybody who follows American politics has heard the news:  Mitt Romney has selected Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential candidate.

And *Democrats* are overjoyed. 

Ryan is the architect of the infamous Ryan Budget Plan that would, if enacted, basically end Medicare for America's seniors (among many other programs) and massively increase spending on defense (aka - funnel even more taxpayer to defense contractors).

Democrats view Ryan as "low-hanging fruit", somebody who will be easy to campaign against as an Ayn Rand-worshipping would-be Galtian superman who wants to dismantle all parts of government and society that don't directly support the wealthy.

While most observers expect Romney to receive a post-announcement "bump" in public opinion polls (that are currently favoring President Obama by a solid margin), continuing through the Republican convention in Tampa, they expect the numbers to return to "normal" once the Democratic convention in Charlotte begins.

Which is all well and good, but just a reminder - Jimmy Carter, Mike Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry, and even John McCain all had leads, sometimes significant ones, in their presidential races, but still lost.

At this point, it's all about follow-through, about entering the final few months of the campaign with as much focus and energy as the last few months and finishing strong.

This one is a long way from over.

Having said all that, I've got a few thoughts on the Ryan pick -

1.   Ryan could be this year's version of Sarah Palin.  No, not in the "crash and burn on the campaign trail as preparation for a reality TV gig" sort of way, but in the "like McCain before him, instead of trying to reach for the middle to gain new votes, Romney chose a VP candidate meant to solidify his support among the far-right of his own party, aka people who were never going to vote for Obama anyway" sort of way.  Maybe that will work out for Romney; history says not.

2.  As happy as Democrats are over this pick, that's got to be nothing compared to the ecstasy that John Boehner, the R Speaker of the US House, is feeling right now.  One of the biggest threats to Boehner's position as leader (and a strong ally of the biggest threat, Eric Cantor) of the Republican caucus in Congress is either a) going to be out of Congress (if Romney pulls out a win) or b) going to be saddled with a hefty chunk of the blame for the Rs' failure to take the White House (if Romney loses).  Either way, a W for Boehner.

3.  Of course, the selection of Ryan as the VP candidate also anoints him as the "next big thing" and presumptive R nominee in 2016 (if Romney loses) or 2020 (if Romney wins).  Former VPs and VP candidates haven't fared too well in their runs for the top spot, but being a former VP/VP candidate beats *not* being a former VP/VP candidate.

4.  However the national election turns out, the Ryan pick may be beneficial to downballot Democrats in Arizona, and maybe even increase the chances of President Obama to carry Arizona.  While the presence of Romney on the ballot will elevate the turnout of the Mormon community looking to support one of their own in his run for the White House, the presence of Ryan on the ballot will elevate the turnout of the retiree community looking to protect Medicare and Social Security.

I'm sure that there will be more to come on this subject...

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