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News from the Votemaster

Note: The first part of this news item was written and posted before Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, but there is an update after it.

Romney To Announce Running Mate Today at 8:45 A.M.

Mitt Romney will announce his choice for Veep this morning at 8:45 A.M. at the USS Wisconsin in Virginia. Some soothsayers have taken the venue to mean that the choice will be Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). but none of them really know.

Red State, a tea party oriented Website that bitterly opposed Romney during the primaries has one of the best pieces around about the factors Romney should consider. These are as follows:

  • Identity politics: a woman would appeal to female voters, who form a majority
  • Race/ethnicity: a Latino would play well in Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, and Virginia
  • Religion: A Protestant would play well with the base whereas a Mormon/Catholic ticket might not
  • Class: Romney was born rich and became richer so someone born poor or middle class would help
  • Geography: A candidate from a swing state or region might be of some value
  • Age: Romney is an old guy. Someone much younger would make the ticket look less outdated
  • Ideology: Romney can't seem to shake the moderate label, so how about a fire-breathing conservative?
  • Experience: Romney knows nothing about foreign policy so having someone on board who does would help
  • Personality: Face it, Romney is boring. Someone exciting would be nice

The bottom line for the author is that Paul Ryan (42) meets more criteria than anyone else. The Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard, and other staunch conservative publications and pundits are also strongly pro-Ryan.

Romney is under a lot of pressure from the right to pick Ryan. If he gives in, the pressure for more concessions will only increase. Ryan is not a safe choice. He is as much of a gamble as Sarah Palin was, but for different reasons. Like Palin, he is a young fresh face who would add a lot of buzz to the ticket, but unlike Palin, he is better vetted and is not likely to become fodder for late-night comedians. He is also a serious ideas person and has laid out a detailed plan to greatly reduce government, spending, and taxes, something Romney has not done. A Ryan pick would plant Romney solidly in the conservative camp and win back all the conservatives who don't trust him. He is also from the Midwest, and might even put Wisconsin in play, although that is far from certain.

On the other hand, as Chris Cillizza has pointed out, Ryan is making the Democrats salivate at the prospect of running against him. He is a hard-right candidate who wrote the Republicans' budget plan, which would immediately become the Democrats' exhibit A as to why the Republicans are unfit for public office. The heart of the Ryan budget is a plan to abolish Medicare as we now know it for people under 55 and instead give each one at 65 a voucher that he or she could spend to buy insurance. However, if Obamacare is repealed, which the Republicans want to do, no insurance company would be interested in insuring people who are old and sick although they might offer junk insurance (with high deductibles and co-payments and low annual limits) just to collect the vouchers. No one knows how much the vouchers would be worth, but since the goal is to save the government money, probably they wouldn't be worth all that much. The Democrats would go wild scaring seniors afraid of not being able to get any kind of decent coverage, especially in Florida.

Additionally, Democrats would put the Ryan budget under a microscope and no doubt find many other unpopular items in it that Romney would be forced to defend. In effect a Ryan pick would make it impossible to put any distance between himself and anything in it. The Democrats would say: "If you don't like X, why did you pick the guy who proposed X?"

Ryan has other liabilities as well. He is a leader of a Congress that people universally hate. He also never worked in the private sector; he has been in politics his whole life. Given how much Romney has praised the private sector and attacked people with no private-sector experience, he is going to have some explaining to do. In addition, Ryan is a policy wonk and his political instincts have never been tested. He is surely going to have to give interviews and may have a tendency to speak the truth--even when that is bad politics. For example, if asked what is going to happen to people who are too sick to buy an insurance policy under Ryancare, he might just say something like "That's their problem, not the government's." While absolutely true, some of those people might not like the answer. Last, Ryan is a Roman Catholic. A Mormon/Catholic ticket would be the first time ever that a major party ticket had no Protestant on it. For those evangelical Protestants who are wary of Romney to start with, this might be enough to make some of them stay home on election day.

A Ryan pick has to be seen as a Hail Mary--something the ever-cautious Romney would only do if he felt he was behind and had to go for broke. Unless you are an early bird living on the East Coast, by the time you read this the choice will be known. And all the buzz might just be a distraction before boring Rob Portman or equally boring Tim Pawlenty is announced.

Under Wisconsin law, Ryan can run for Vice President and the House at the same time, so accepting the offer has no downside and even if he loses, would make him a serious player--maybe the favorite--in 2016. Of course, running for both Vice President and Congress at the same time will open him to charges that he doesn't have much faith in his own ticket.

Update: Romney has indeed chosen Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. It is a bold and unexpected gamble, one sure to energize both sides. Conservatives, who didn't trust Romney, will be 100% behind him now. Apparently all the criticism of Romney as just whining about Obama but not saying what he would do as President got to him. Now in one stroke he is offering a revolutionary vision for America, one with much smaller government and much more personal responsibility. The big question is whether America wants this. Polls seem to show it doesn't, but most people don't really understand what Ryan is proposing. Within a couple of weeks they certainly will, thanks to Obama's reelection team. The last time the Republicans proposed anything this radical was in 1964, when Barry Goldwater discovered the hard way that Americans may complain a lot about the federal government, but they don't really want to change it in any fundamental way.

Although the mudslinging is sure to continue, for the first time in nearly 50 years there will be a heavy focus on two very different visions for America's future. Up until now, the focus has been on whether Obama has done enough to fix the economy fast enough and what Romney did exactly at Bain Capital. Starting today that will all change. The discussion will not be about who can tinker with the economy better, but about where do we want to go. It won't be about repealing Obamacare, it will be about repealing Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and maybe even about repealing Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal.

After the 2004 election, the first thing the newly reelected George W. Bush did was launch a major campaign to privatize Social Security. It failed. People didn't want that. But one person who did want it and made no secret of it was Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). For better or worse, he and Romney are now stuck with that position as well. On his own, Romney often downplays or even denies positions he once strongly advocated, but Ryan is not like that. For better or worse, he is a straightforward guy who has been completely consistent over the years. While many people are going to like his consistency and honesty, they may not like the message and now Romney is stuck with it, too.

Politico has a good piece on how the selection of Ryan is a game changer in many ways. Some of the key points are:

  • Deficit reduction, a Republican favorite, will now be front and center in the debate
  • The battle for the senior vote and especially Florida (and maybe Arizona) will heat up enormously
  • Wisconsin might be in play (although Obama carried Ryan's district in 2008 by 4 points in 2008)
  • Ryan is a young, friendly guy, with Sarah Palin's attractiveness and Dick Cheney's knowledge
  • Ryan supported the auto bailout, something Romney opposed
  • Ryan didn't like Romneycare in Massachusetts, but currently Romney doesn't like it either so that may not matter
  • The new guy on the ticket is strongly anti-abortion. That's not going to help reduce the gender gap
  • He has been in the highly unpopular House for 14 years and has no real private-sector experience

Unmentioned is the fact that Ryan doesn't bring any foreign policy experience to a ticket sorely needing in it. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), thought to be the front runner by many until this morning, was U.S. Trade Representative, so he did have foreign policy experience, but Ryan has none. It will be an interesting campaign and with much more substance than any one for many years.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Iowa 44% 46%   Aug 08 Aug 08 Rasmussen

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---The Votemaster

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