For all intents and purposes, the parameters of the 2012 Election have been set. Whether Mitt Romney intended it or not, he has released the focus of voters from the current economy to the macro consideration of the size and scope of government. This is no longer a referendum on the President. It is an up/down vote on 21st Century government.
And that's a good thing.
I've grown a bit tired of people saying "VP picks don't matter all that much." In fact, I've grown tired of anyone saying anything with certainty based on the sample size of US Elections. "A President has never won when..." "A President has never lost when..." Sure, that's true, but a simple quarter toss may have as much relevance when you consider how many elections we've had in the age of the Internet, globalization, and since the time America has been a lone super-power (please leave the China debate for another day).
Coming back to the issue at hand, the Vice Presidential pick absolutely matters when the top of the ticket is a buttered saltine with etch-a-sketch positions. Paul Ryan defines Mitt Romney's run for President.
Not only that. Paul Ryan also defines President Obama's run for re-election. Ryan is a man of action. He has strong convictions about what is right for this Country and has acted on those convictions with little reservation (changing his "solution" for Medicare being a glaring exception). President Obama may be a man of conviction, but he is slow to act. Your ideological bent will determine where you place the blame, but this President has not done much of anything in the legislative arena for almost two years. With Paul Ryan has the contrast, Obama hasn't even really tried.
Immediately after the pick, polling showed that approximately 54% of voters had no idea who Paul Ryan was. As I heard one Sunday Morning talking head mention, that is a humbling statistic for those of us who pay too much attention to Washington, D.C. Over the next two months, we're going to see a race to define Paul Ryan and his plan for America. Democrats have had a lot of success using Paul Ryan's plan to win Congressional elections, even in Republican strongholds, over the past year and a half. Can they do that on the national stage?
More importantly, are the Romney folks going to fumble? Romney is already saying in interviews that he has his own budget plan and that his plan is the one that will be implemented should he be elected. Well then...why? Why did you pick Ryan? Why do you choose your budget over his? Why is the Ryan plan not the right plan for America?
But as you see, all paths lead back to Paul Ryan. There is a lot of meat on those bones, which is a lot of fun for a policy wonk like myself to dive into. It is also a responsibility. If you are going to dislike Paul Ryan because of his plan, you have an obligation to read it, or at least make a sufficient effort at getting an unbiased view. Likewise if you think it is a good idea. There are undoubtedly some radical ideas in that Plan, particularly those that may turn off retirees in the all-so-important state of Florida, but Ryan is also a policy wonk himself. He is not throwing up puzzle pieces that won't fit. This is an idea he has for remaking the Country that he thinks will work.
In a way, I almost feel bad for him. Imagine a painter, staying up late in the studio, choosing just the right colors, painting over and scraping away missed strokes. Finally it is done. To be revealed to the masses. For ritualistic destruction.
The Baltimore Sun agrees with Comptroller Franchot that the Governor and legislative supporters of expanded gambling in Maryland should release specified campaign finance disclosures regarding those interests. Their reasoning is spot on. The Governor has repeatedly expressed concern about the influence of gambling interests by supporting amendments that would limit campaign contributions from the industry (constitutionality of such provisions being left for later discussion). If he is so concerned about later influence, isn't there a much more pressing concern to evaluate what influence is being exerted now?
Today is the second day of Maryland's tax-free shopping week, which is specifically geared towards parents buying back-to-school clothes and school supplies, but may also be helpful for those football fans looking to upgrade the command center. Jane is one of the savviest shoppers you will ever meet. This time of year is normally when we consider replacing the old and used in our lives. Unfortunately, everything seems to have piled up. Patio furniture. Grill. HVAC unit. I think we may let the week pass without buying anything, but time will tell.
U.S. Department of Defense has suggested that it could slow pay increases without adverse consequences in a report that is somewhat ironically drafted by the Rand Corporation. Meanwhile, a significant portion of the enlisted service men and women are one retirement away from a six figure salary. Seems unlikely that this policy would not affect enlistment, but who am I to say.
Featured Blog Post of the Day: Dennis and Paul set up what they would like to be Howard County's version of Crossfire with this week's guests: Chris Oxenham and Roger Caplan. It was a good show, although I did feel like Calvin Ball received some unnecessary shots for a piece of legislation that he withdrew two weeks ago (come on, pundits, read the news! It's free!). I'm also interested to hear the repeated proffer of Frank Aquino as the Dem candidate for Council District 1 in 2014. The only place I'm hearing this is from WB and his "sources". But the most interesting news was Ox noting that Chris Merdon has been appointed to the Howard County Republican Central Committee. That seems to me to be a big sign of an intended run in 2014 with the targeted office TBD.
Homeless Ending Happy Hour re-set for Tuesday, August 21st at The Rumor Mill. Please mark your calendars!
That's all for today. Have a great Monday doing what you love!