Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Boxed In: The Limits of the Ryan Pick

Yesterday we looked at the effect Paul Ryan will have on the Presidential Race on whole, but today I thought we could examine his concrete effect with regard to Romney's chances for winning the Presidency.  As you undoubtedly heard multiple times over the past three days, Republicans and Democrats are similarly enthusiastic about this pick, but not in a bipartisan "Everybody-likes-the-guy" kind of way.  More of a "Are you seeing the same thing I'm seeing?" kind of way.  Here is what the detractors are saying:

Romney left Delegates on the table.  Many Dem-sided pundits said before the pick that the worst thing Romney could do to the Obama campaign is lock down Ohio.  It is one of the most important battleground states and one that most successful Republican candidates have pulled in come November.  Romney has never held a poll lead in that state and is losing ground.  But if there is anything Vice Presidential picks have proven useful for, it is winning the home states of the selected candidate (see Lyndon Baines Johnson).  Hence, a lot of the talk last week was that Romney would be selecting popular Ohio Senator Robert Portman, who would at the very least put Ohio back in play, but expected to potentially pull it back into the red category, grabbing those 18 electoral votes.

Similarly, other strategists thought Romney may go for Senator Marco Rubio and not only solidify Florida, but also give him some friction with the Hispanic vote.  There were innumerable reasons not to pick Rubio, but the 29 electoral votes were surely hard to ignore.

With Ryan, Romney leaves the electoral math behind in favor of a game changer, which many say is not his style.  Wisconsin is a swing state, but its 10 electoral votes were leaning towards President Obama even as voters were confirming Scott Walker as Governor.  Romney declined a mathematical pick, which would have been much safer and shown a calculated path to victory.  The Ryan pick pushes him out into space, hoping that the current can change the election in his favor.

Ryan Not Popular.  It's early, but Gallup released a poll yesterday of 1,006 national "adults" (presumably not the "likely voter" category) and found that Paul Ryan is the least popular vice presidential pick since Dan Quayle.  I was genuinely surprised by these numbers...until I gave it a second thought.  Who has a lower favorability rating than the President?  The United States Congress, that's who.  The average poll has 77% of Americans saying they disapprove of the job Congress is doing.  And among them, who has been a frequent face in the media as Congress rides the train off the tracks?  Congressman Paul Ryan.

That's not to say he can't redefine his image as the "one person trying to get something done", but there is no question that his background and experience could trip him up.

Romney Jeopardizes the Senior Vote.  Here's a quote from Nate Cohn at The National Review (an admittedly left-leaning publication, but not relevant for this purpose):

Recent polls confirm that Romney’s road to the White House runs through seniors. Most polls show Obama in the low-40s among seniors, even though those same polls put him at 48 or 49 percent nationally. On that basis, we can infer that Obama would finish in the low-40s among seniors if he finishes at 48 or 49 percent nationally, which would mean that a narrow Romney victory would probably involve Obama losing seniors by about 15 points. And by that same token, if Obama can push his support up into the mid-40s, Obama would be well positioned to win reelection.

We don't need to go into the details of the Ryan plan just yet, but I'm glad I'm not the one that has to explain fundamentally changing Medicare due to future financial considerations to seniors who are currently dependent on the program. A June 2011 poll regarding the Ryan plan for Medicare reform found that 74% of seniors polled opposed his plan.  Anyone up for a game of spinning plates?

Isn't It The Economy, Stupid?  Here is former Bush speech-writer David Frum:

Most economists would draw a distinction between the government's fiscal problems over the medium term and the economy's problems in the near term. The economy's near-term problems can be traced to the housing crisis.

Americans assumed crushing levels of debt in the 2000s to buy expensive homes, homes they assumed would continue to rise in price forever. In 2007, household debt relative to income peaked at the highest level since 1928. (Uh oh.) When the housing market crashed, consumers were stranded with unsustainable debts, and until those debts are reduced, consumers will drastically cut back their spending. As consumers cut back, businesses lose revenue. As businesses lose revenue, they fire employees. As employees lose their jobs, their purchasing power is reduced. As purchasing power is lost throughout the economy, housing prices tumble again.

Without getting too far into the economic muck, a consensus seems to be growing (if not already established) that we have a demand-side problem that is being intentionally maintained by a Federal Reserve that is terrified of inflation.  If we cut spending and lower taxes, we are crippling the U.S. Government's most effective means of executing monetary policy.  When I say that Paul Ryan is looking to fundamentally change the United States, I mean it in the most literal and complete way.  The dollar will no longer be anything the US controls.  Rather, in many respects, it will be controlled by those to which we owe our debts.

But in the short term, I wonder if Romney has lost the "time to give someone else a try" voter.  These are the very practical folks who say "President Obama tried his best.  It didn't work.  Time to hand over the wheel to someone else."  If that someone else says "I'm going to sell this baby for a motorcycle", the practical voter may take pause and say "You know what, I bet President Obama is just a little rusty on stick shift...why don't you give it another try?"  I don't think Presidential elections can be won by the fringe true believers.  This is a different world than 2000.

No links today.  The post took on a life of its own.  

Please make sure to check out the Facebook event page for the Homeless Ending Happy Hour next Tuesday, August 21st at 6:00 pm.  We're meeting at The Rumor Mill, one of my favorite HoCo locales.  A lot of my favorite people have already RSVP'ed "yes", so I'm quite certain it will be an amazing time.

Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!