Friday, August 17, 2012

The Week in Review...Ryan's (the) Hope (August 17, 2012)

The Week in Review is, of course, all about Paul Ryan.  I have had many good suggestions for plays on Paul Ryan’s last name, among them “Saving Romney’s Campaign” and “Paul Ryan’s Distress” (each, oddly, parodying a war movie).  The best one was probably “Help Me Ryan, Help Help Me Ryan” but that sounds like a (future?) song parody to me. 

Even though I settled on playing off the old soap opera “Ryan’s Hope,” perhaps “Ryan’s Slaughter” (after “Ryan’s Daughter”) is most appropriate?  This might have been a gutsy pick, an ideas pick, an inspiring, energizing pick, an issue-clarifying substance pick – but it sure isn’t a winning pick, and might be a terrible one.

I had posited that Romney might go for a risky pick given his (trailing) position in the polls and the limited opportunity for game-changers that a candidate can control.  But with major downside risk associated with each of Romney's high profile options (Christie, Rice, Rubio and Ryan), I figured the Cautious Calibrating Man would go with Portman after all.

But he didn’t.  So let’s stack up what we know after a week of analysis.  And I’m not talking about anything other than whether this was a pick that increased Romney’s chances of winning.

First the positives:  I think the bottom line is that Romney’s strategy must be this:  he is going to try to energize his base, and not just because he thinks he can win a “base versus base” race, forgetting about the small group of independents.  I think the greater calculation is about money.  The Ryan pick makes Sheldon Adelson happy, Rupert Murdoch (“a perfect pick”) and thus Fox and the Wall Street Journal happy, and thus keeps the money rolling in.  Obama has spent heavily early to define Romney, and flat out won that round.  But Romney is going to try to spend late, probably carpet bombing swing states with negative Obama ads after the convention.  Ryan was easily the best option to drive that strategy – the only option, in fact, that could actually increase Romney's impressive fundraising capabilities.

But wow, are there a lot of negatives.  So many I need bullet points.

  • It shifts the dialogue from Romney’s strategy to date – jobs, jobs, jobs – to the Ryan Budget and the deficit.  Wow.  I doubt that shift is a good idea, because…

  • …that puts Ryan’s Medicare plans front and center.  Obama has been trying to figure out how to saddle Romney with Ryan's "end Medicare as we know it" Budget for a long time and had just about given up….and then Romney hands it to him.  And thus…

  • ...Romney will see his 10-point lead among seniors challenged….seriously challenged.  Which brings me to….

  • Florida, a key swing state (29 electoral votes), a state Romney has to win…and, already behind there, he pretty much just gave it away.  So that he can possibly (but not likely) carry….Wisconsin (10 electoral votes)?  Not to mention that…

  • …Democratic Senate and House candidates are already tying their opponents to Ryan’s Budget…every House Republican save 4 voted for it, so the incumbents are on the record, which is particularly unfortunate for them because…

  • …Ryan’s budget is, quite simply, not terribly specific.  He has never said exactly how to make up the revenue from trimming income taxes to 25% and 10% and that’s because  the only way to do that is to get rid of the mortgage deduction and other middle class tax  breaks – and thus the tax bill for the middle class will go up while going down for the superrich.  Tough sell.

And then there is the data to date:

  • According to Nate Silver, the post-annoucement “bounce” for Romney was a measly 1 point, compared to the normal 4-point bounce the VP announcement normally generates.

  • According to Gallup, Ryan is the least popular vice-presidential pick since, um, Dan Quayle.  In polling done after the announcement, compared to similar polling after past VP announcements, Ryan is the most unfavorable and the second least favorable.  (Check out those Dick Cheney numbers while you are at it)

Never Heard of
Paul Ryan
Sarah Palin
Joe Biden
John Edwards
Joe Lieberman
Dick Cheney
Jack Kemp
Al Gore

Republican insiders know all this.  There is a good article by Burns and Haberman ( that says that these Republican inside-the-beltway types feel it is a doomed pick.  They are not happy, not the least because it is more than just the Presidency, it’s the House and Senate races that are hurt by this too.

We’ll see.  Romney has already begun to distance himself – a bit – from Ryan’s Budget (“I have my own plan”).  But hearing him spend the fall comparing “his own” budget to that of his Veep, which is basically only known for his Budget, I mean, huh?

I ask myself the simple question…why would Romney rather talk about Medicare than jobs?  I’ve been watching, reading, surfing about the campaign all week….and everyone, including Romney and Obama, is talking about Medicare!

Comments welcome!


  1. Ok, here you finally have a guy, from Briarcliff Manor (whooops, I meant Wisconsin) with substance, ideas, and cheese in his veins.

    Unlike the last Rep VP candidate, this guy will grow on us. A good campaigner.

    OK, and the "appeal to the base barb" is disingenuous. Obama hasn't done this???

    I say to the RR team (nice initials btw), go negative to match Obama! Bomb away.

    Off to the Venetian to talk to the boys...


    1. Ryan does have a plan. It's got big holes in it. Kinda like a business plan that says it will grow revenue -- but also purposely eliminates a major revenue stream, without idenitifying the new revenue stream that will replace it in full.

      I agree that Obama routinely appeals to his base. I also think Obama is trying to woo the independents more than Romney and he is succeeding there. The question is, with the Ryan pick, has Romney given up on them?

      Furthermore, I believe that the Obama campaign is ruthless and hard-nosed and has been known to twist the truth, quote out of context, and paint the Romney position in the worst possible light. Romney himself once said that political campaigns "ain't beanbag."

      Everyone goes negative for one simple reason: it works. People are influenced by effective negative ads/campaigning. And then you wonder why people dislike politics and politicians. I've said many times that if Coke and Pepsi spent all their ad dollars talking about how bad the other one tasted, no one would like soda.

      This race will come down to negative ads in swing states. Romney picked Ryan to raise ever more money so he can outspend Obama after the conventions. That's it.

  2. Is it possible that there was no grand plan here, and that Romney actually just backed into picking Ryan? I think somebody must have explained to Romney that picking Portman or Pawlenty would be a disaster, because either one of of them would have profoundly reinforced the notion that Romney is too cautious, safe, poll-dictated, and spineless to do anything outside the lines. But Romney could not possibly take a risk on a real unknown with the Palin fiasco still stinging. So that left him with with Christie, Rubio, maybe Rice (she sounded adamant that she didn't want it)... and Ryan. In the end, Christie and Rubio represented bigger risks/question marks than Ryan... and then the WSJ weighs in and essentially orders Romney to pick Ryan. It seems that this wasn't a strategic choice about taking the debate in a new direction; more like one more instance of Romney making a decision based on calculation and expedience rather than vision and conviction.

    1. I agree with you entirely. But I think the nuance is what one calls a "strategy."

      I believe Romney's new "strategy" is to outspend Obama heavily post-convention with negative ads in swing states. I think he's concluded that is the only way he can win. Ryan was the best pick to accomplish that strategy. The right-wing money guys are thrilled with it. And the dollars will keep rolling in, even faster, and substantially more of it than what Obama will raise here on in.

      The "jobs for Medicare" dialogue swap was collateral damage that Romney was willing to accept. I think he figures that his jobs message had gotten 45% of the electorate but would get no more. So, he's trying to make sure that his 45% actually gets to the polls, to fire them up. To do that he'll go way negative on Obama, because that is all his 45% cares about. They don't even care about him. The SuperPAC ads barely mention Romney. It's all anti-Obama.

      But I disagree with that calculus. The Ryan pick fires up the left and the seniors, in a way Obama himself was having difficulty achieving. And that helps Obama's 45%, maybe gives him a few more, and certainly is a deciding factor for some in the middle to side with Obama.

      It's gonna be ugly! On both sides! See my comments re "negative campaigning" in my response to the other post today (above).

    2. You're right, it will be beautifully ugly.

      Hey, forget the politics - let's get back to the predicting the election. Here's where we are - everybody agrees the economy is stuck in the mud. 96% of the electorate has picked a side.

      What's become clear, the $2 billion election really is going to support a ground game the likes of which has never been waged on US soil. That's the "strategy." The negative ads are only useful as air support for the infantry - each side needs to turn out its base - and minimize the other guys turnout. Expect ACORN to re-emerge under a new banner, the community organizers to mobilize, the payoffs be made to get the voters to the polls. Axelrod will need to do this heavy lift for Obama all by himself, since most Dems don't want to be seen with Obama. I don't think Ryan matters.

      Both sides will go to the wall on the air to support the troops on the ground. Expect our hopey-changey president to get more desperate as he tries to cling to office. Expect the RR team to confuse the numbers even more, and bait Obama even more. The swift boat, tank pictures, willie horton will come yet as the bunker busters by one side or the other.

      So how about an analysis of the swing states based on turnout projections? Any data we can look at to predict the swing states turnout during previous midterms? Are we headed to a scenario where Obama wins the College, but loses the popular vote??? How about some turnout predictions?



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