The Ryan Pick


With his selection of Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, Mitt Romney has decided the 2012 presidential election. Barack Obama will be reelected president of the United States.

Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, brings Romney needed credibility with conservatives. Indeed, over the past few days establishment conservatives have been waging a pick-Ryan campaign in the media, and probably behind the scenes with Romney’s people as well. Ryan is a serious figure intellectually, and commands respect within establishment political circles. But he has spent over a decade in Congress, and as a result is viewed with some skepticism by Tea Party types. He will not excite the yahoo wing of the party as Sarah Palin did in 2008.

But just how much Ryan solidifies Romney’s support from the base is beside the point. Indeed, the Ryan pick shows just how out of touch Romney is with political realities. Conservatives were going to hold their noses and vote for Romney anyway, because they hate Obama. What Romney needed was a VP pick who would help him win over independents, particularly women. Ryan doesn’t do that. But the damage the Ryan pick does to Romney goes beyond this.

The problem is Ryan’s plan for Medicare. I’m not going to discuss the merits of the Ryan plan here; this is a piece about electoral politics. The Ryan plan will be pounded day in and day out by Democrats. By November Ryan and Romney will literally look like losers, irritable and worn from weeks and weeks of defending a plan that most people (and all oldsters) will perceive as the evisceration of a sacrosanct entitlement. Even people over 60 who belong to the Tea Party believe that their Medicare benefits must be preserved, no matter the cost.

Romney’s people may believe that Ryan will bring them Wisconsin, and winning that state becomes a bit more likely with Ryan on the ticket. But it’s still very much a reach for the Republicans. Scott Walker’s success in surviving the recall election earlier this year is not likely a harbinger of Republican prospects in November. Many Walker voters who were standing up against Wisconsin’s public employee unions (i.e., voting their pocketbooks), will not support cuts in Medicare and Social Security.

Had Romney been looking to pick off a battleground state, he should’ve picked Rob Portman of Ohio. Ohio is bigger than Wisconsin, and Republicans had a decent chance of carrying the state. Portman might have put them over the top there. The Ryan pick places Ohio more firmly in the Democratic column.

I originally thought that Romney would pick a woman or a Hispanic (Marco Rubio), because he lags badly with both groups. I did an analysis in June that gave President Obama 22 states and the District of Columbia with a total of 270 electoral votes, the minimum needed to win. With five months to go the election was clearly very much up for grabs. I thought then that Romney would pick Portman, as Ohio is a state Romney needs to win if he is to prevail. With the selection of Ryan, Romney has probably lost Ohio and Florida, which in June I had going to the Republicans. If Romney loses both Ohio and Florida, there is no way he gets to 270 electoral votes.

The idea that major structural reform of Medicare and Social Security will play politically, in a time of economic uncertainty and widespread voter despair, is utter nonsense. Yet that is what Romney apparently believes, based on his selection of Ryan. Romney truly is out of touch with reality. His dippiness was already apparent in his views on foreign policy. His economic policies — on tax reform, job creation, and yes, entitlement reform — were in fact far more sensible than anything put forward by the Democrats, and this constituted his main advantage over Obama. But by placing radical reform of Medicare and Social Security in the forefront of the political debate — that is, by picking Paul Ryan — Romney has cost himself the election. The only question now is how big Obama’s margin will be.

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Willy Star Marshall

Serious about fiscal reform? Romney has already said he is NOT going to balance the budget, and has distanced himself from even Ryan's wimpy plan to balance it by 2040! If Romney wins, he will not cut ONE DOLLAR from total federal spending. I'd be happy to bet anyone either dinner in a restaurant or a silver Eagle that Romney's first year budget will actually be even MORE than Obama's last year budget. He will make Obama's current spending levels PERMANENT. If Romney/Ryan is the best the Republicans have to offer, they deserve to lose. I'm proud to have voted for Gary Johnson. I rather hope that Romney wins so I can have the satisfaction of saying I told you so when he turns out to be George Bush the Third. But if Romney loses, I hope he loses by the combined Libertarian/Constitution party vote. That might teach the GOP that when they run big government candidates they lose.

Jim Henshaw

re this: "By picking Ryan he tells the conservatives and the tea party (which is half libertarian) that he is serious about fiscal reform and won't become a born-again Obama once elected."

No, by picking Ryan, the lighter-beiged Obamney is pandering to the fiscal conservatives he needs to turn out in large numbers to win, after which he would then screw them over by being the flip-flopping centrist RINO "well-oiled weathervane of a politician" that he so obviously is.

And yet, he's still marginally the lesser of two evils on fiscal issues.


Truth is, Romney lost this election back in Febuary. If not before.

It is almost impossible to defeat an incumbent. At all levels in this country. Come on...GW Bush was reelected during a very bad economy and a promise of endless war.

It takes and extraordinary set of circumstances to produce a defeat of an incumbent. Fraction within the party in power, extreme poor performance from the candidate, amongst others, to produce such a result. None of which was in the cards this election.

Jon Harrison

Almost impossible to defeat an incumbent? Not since the country started to fall apart in the Sixties. 1980: incumbent defeated. 1992: incumbent defeated. One could say an incumbent lost in '76 as well. Had LBJ run again in '68, he probably would've lost; his withdrawal from the race was practically an admission of defeat in advance. So, depending on how you count 'em, either two, three or four incumbents have gone down to defeat since 1968. Four incumbents have been reelected in that time (Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush II). Almost impossible to defeat an incumbent. . . ?

Obama was, and potentially still is, extremely vulnerable. If the Republicans had another Reagan, we'd be looking at a replay of 1980. Unfortunately the Republican Party, thanks to Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and right-wing media enablers like Rupert Murdoch, Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, and the entire crew at National Review (Bill Buckley must be spinning in his grave), has become a corrupt Janus, the mirror image of the Democrats. "Big government conservatism" they called it in the Bush years. May they all rot in hell for betraying true conservatism.


What is the common denominator in those races where incumbents were defeated?

The presiding party was fractured. Carter had Teddy, Bush I had Perot. LBJ saw his party terribly fractured and knew what the result would be. Ford was unelected representing a resigned and disgraced and fractured party.

Obama doesn't have to worry about that. The Republicans could nominate the second coming of Reagan, and it wouldn't be 1980. It'd be 1972.

Jon Harrison

You make a very good point about incumbents who've lost their reelection bids. A fractured party did play a key role in the elections you and I have been discussing. On the other hand, I disagree completely with your last sentence. Obama is almost as vulnerable as Hoover was in 1932. The Republicans just don't have an FDR or a Reagan to run against him.

Rich Clark

I think Jon's analysis is on target, although I agree with the other comment that the VP choice may not have as big an effect as Jon suggests. However, any effect will likely hurt Romney in the long run, not help him. Did Romney forget the Nixon adage that the candidate is supposed to run back to the center after getting the nomination? Romney keeps moving toward the right.

Jim Henshaw

re this: "Did Romney forget the Nixon adage that the candidate is supposed to run back to the center after getting the nomination? Romney keeps moving toward the right."

Romney moving toward the right * IS * moving toward the political center.

re the people asserting the election is over, without any shred of doubt: Really? The handful of swing states that will decide the election are going to decisively move toward Obama over a VP pick?

Jon Harrison

That handful of swing states, or at least the ones Obama needs to win, was already trending toward him before the Ryan pick. The baggage Ryan brings to the Republican ticket will put Ohio and Florida into the Democratic column. And Romney simply cannot reach 270 electoral votes if he loses both Ohio and Florida. Admittedly, I'm not a psychic -- just a brilliant political analyst -- but the logic of this election now seems clear. I suppose something could happen to scramble the election and put Romney in the White House, but I can't think what that might be. We're already so close to election day that if Europe imploded or full-scale war broke out in the Middle East, Obama would be helped and not hurt. Voters would stick with the known quantity in the face of a sudden, major crisis.

Fred Mora


I won't dispute your analysis regarding how the VP pick will hamper the Republican ticket in FL and OH. However, I question the magnitude of the effect. How big a difference will it make? One to two percent?

If so, the Ryan effect will be overshadowed by the massive electoral fraud that will take place in these two states next November. We'll see again the good old busloads of Democrat volunteers stopping at half a dozen voting places, but this time, it will be on an industrial scale. I predict a very high turnout in this state and an unprecedented absolute number of Democratic votes. Unless these States suddenly decide to enact a voter ID law, which seems unlikely.

So we agree about the prediction, but not necessarily about the cause.

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