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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Jon Harrison

Right. I don't believe there will be significant voter fraud by the Democrats. I seriously doubt you will see exceptionally high turnout or an unprecedented number of Democratic votes cast in either Florida or Ohio. If such does occur, it won't be the result of fraud. Voter fraud of the sort you're imagining just doesn't happen on such a large scale. Even in the heyday of Democratic perversion of the electoral process, fraud was largely a paper crime, and didn't involve shipping large numbers of people from polling place to polling place. Illinois and Texas in 1960, and LBJ's Texas Senate race in '48, were corrupted in this way.

Voter ID laws will almost certainly suppress turnout this year, and that will favor the Republicans and not the Democrats.

It's important that we move beyond the cartoonish view of the world promoted by many media outlets on both left and right if we are to begin to understand how the world really works.

Fred Mora

> Voter fraud of the sort you're imagining just doesn't
> happen on such a large scale.

Says who? Speaking of cartoonish vision of the world, your Weltanschauung is a bit too rosy. Let's be serious. Considering what Obama and the Chicago Democrats did to other Democrats -- witness how Hillary Clinton was kicked out of the 2008 race -- why would they suddenly be principled and play fair? They certainly don't have to fear the mainstream media reporting their shenanigans.

I *hope* you're right, Jon, but I don't see an objective reason to sustain that hope.

Jon Harrison

Says who? Says me. I've yet to see evidence of massive voting fraud of the type you posit in your earlier comment, Fred. If such evidence exists, please point me to it.

How principled and fair one or both parties will be in this election is another matter. I was only referring to the point you raised about large numbers of people being transported from one polling place to another in order to provide fraudulent votes for Democrats.


Worse still, Ryan has the same sort of undeserved reputation for arch-conservatism that GW Bush had—mostly because he bought into every single one of Bush's disastrous initiatives in office, from Iraq to prescription meds. And his reputation as a deficit hawk obscures what he's most hawkish about, which is war (and the enormous military spending that supports it). I wouldn't be at all surprised if he also joined in beating the drum for trade war with China, as the GOP ticket tries to pick up rust-belt voters.

This promises now to be an even more dismal election run-in than I had previously feared. Hope there's at least some cheap laughs along the way.

Jon Harrison

I share your views, except I wouldn't mind a trade war with China so much. What was praticed upon the Soviet Union must be practiced upon China as well -- the Han Chinese empire must be broken up. This is the one forward policy the U.S. should follow, while retrenching (or even withdrawing) elsewhere around the world.

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