The presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney picked his vice-presidential running mate over the weekend: Paul Ryan, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin.
Here’s my take: Romney just took a fairly easy campaign with an almost certain win and turned it into a knee-knocker. Now, it will be close, and here’s two reasons why:
First, Ryan will be cast as a polarizing figure, extreme on the budget, and wanting to take public assistance away from people at the time they need it most. Of particular focus will be Ryan’s position on Medicare and Social Security, that those under 55 should have some private options rather than being forced into a public program.
Now, Ryan is undoubtedly right on this. There is no legitimate argument that can be made that the current system is either good or sustainable. The problem is the politics of it. It started long ago when Ryan was positioned as wanting to take Medicare away from seniors who depend on it.
Great argument and great rhetoric. Just untrue, according to Ryan. His changes are for those under 55, and everyone under 55 should be voting for this. Problem is they won’t.
Second, I think this election will be very hard to win without Florida. And I don’t think Ryan will play well in Florida. Again, this is not because he’s wrong. He isn’t. It’s because of politics. Thirty seconds of “Ryan wants to take your social security and Medicare away from you” running ten times an hour all over the Sunshine State will sway voters.
In short, I don’t think Romney can win the election without winning Florida, and I don’t think he can win Florida with Ryan.
As some have suggested, this was Romney throwing down the gauntlet, going for broke, playing for keeps, or whatever metaphor you want to use here. It was a declaration that there is no holding back. He is not going to run on Obama’s failed record. He is going to run with positive ideas.
The upside for Romney in this is that it probably energizes the Republican base, and the Tea Party constituency. Those who were tepid on Romney will be more likely to vote for him with Ryan at his side.
Will it work? In about ninety days we will know.
In short, I think this makes it close when it probably wouldn’t have been.
However, I am sure that Romney had all kinds of internal polls throwing all kinds of names out there to see what the electorate in key states looked like.
Hopefully, it turns out well.