Politico Arena Topic: Is Paul Ryan a Good VP Choice?
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is an unconventional choice for a vice presidential running mate and certainly qualifies as a “bold” one. Time will tell if it is a good pick. Not many individuals from the U.S. House are chosen for the #2 slot—the last time that happened was 1984 with Walter Mondale’s selection of Geraldine Ferraro. House members usually lack the visibility and experience on the national stage that a senator or governor possess. But Ryan is different. He has become one of the leading voices of the new Republican Party—one of the 40-something “young guns” redefining the party’s brand of fiscal conservatism. He is a wonkish Gen Xer—a stark contrast with the man who picked him. Ryan is bright and has spent most of his adult life on Capitol Hill, including nearly 14 years as a member of the House—no Palin problem here (you can’t see Russia from his Janesville District but on a clear day you may be able to see Rockford).
The “Ryan Budget,” with its blend of fiscal austerity and massive cuts to the domestic safety net combined with compassion for the top earners and DoD, will now become a central focus of the campaign. To a great extent, this is something both liberals and conservatives relish—a real debate about the future priorities and values of the American economy. And up to this point, it is something the Romney campaign has been loath to explore in any way but the most vague and vacuous. That will now change.
From an Electoral Map perspective, the Ryan pick may put Wisconsin back in play—a state where President Obama has had a consistent if small lead in the polls throughout the campaign. Ryan’s Catholic upbringing and social conservatism will help the Romney campaign with Midwestern Catholics and perhaps other religious conservatives still uneasy about Romney’s faith. Without a doubt the Ryan pick energizes a GOP base sorely in need of energizing. Ryan gives the base a reason to vote FOR Romney instead of just AGAINST President Obama. But Ryan is a double-edged sword—those very reasons he may energize the base may be the same reasons he turns off independents and seniors in crucial swing states. The Obama campaign will not miss an opportunity to remind seniors in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Iowa—three of the top five states in terms of proportion of seniors per capita—what the Ryan Budget means for the future of Medicare. Thus, putting Wisconsin in play may ultimately come at the expense of handing Florida to Barack Obama in 2012—a trade the Obama campaign would make any day.
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