This past weekend Mitt Romney rolled out his VP pick, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. I can’t say I’m surprised. The short list that the media seemed to agree on was Ryan, Rob Portman of Ohio, or Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota. This was a defining moment for Romney, giving a clear indication at where the team thought the campaign was. No choice could possibly satisfy everyone in the base, and he has made a calculated decision that the people Paul Ryan will appease weighs out the amount of people he alienates, not to mention the candy given to the Obama campaign.
The polls show that Mitt Romney is down overall to Obama by about 5 or 6 points. He is losing among women by 22 points, the under 30 age group by 20 points, Hispanics by 49 points, and african americans by 90 points. Usually when candidates are choosing VP’s, they like to pick someone who will appeal to a certain demographic or solidify the ticket to make it more appealing to independents or among the base. This is why it was originally speculated in the media that Marco Rubio of Florida, or former Secretary of State Condalisa Rice (ha) would be picks, to appeal to a demographic that Romney isn’t doing well with. It’s also why John McCain picked Sarah Palin in 2008, because he wanted to appeal to disenfranchised women who may have even supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries. Paul Ryan however, is unquestionably a pick to appeal to the fringe and directly to the base that dislikes him so much, at the risk of disenfranchising just about every other demographic.
Polls are now showing that despite how relatively early it is in the campaign still, there are now less than 8 points of undecided voters. With current polling so bad for Romney, he needed an extreme shakeup to keep things moving past his tax returns and shoring up the support from his base, whom polls show are clearly dissatisfied with him as a choice. As Rachel Maddow pointed out, the Romney campaign as of the last few weeks is no longer running ads calling Obama a failure on the economy in full force. The main attack ads of the Romney campaign and supporting super PACs are hitting hot button issues for conservatives like welfare, healthcare, and gun control. This means Romney is now focusing on energizing the base rather than targeting undecideds, since there are so few undecideds now to justify targeting them with ad campaigns. That is the essence of what the Ryan pick is.
Paul Ryan is the definition of an extreme neoconservative. 3/5 of the cuts in his infamous budget are directed at programs for the poor, elderly, and students, like welfare, food stamps, medicare, and Pell grants, prompting many in the catholic community to cry foul over abandoning the nations poor and elderly. Obama famously decried the budget as “Social Darwinism”, and former GOP presidential candidate Newt make-kids-janitors Gingrich called it “right-wing social-engineering”. On top of draconian cuts, the Ryan budget increases defense spending by 200 billion over 10 years, while gouging tax rates for the wealthiest Americans.
On top of the trickle down economic philosophy, Paul Ryan is a rigid social conservative. He strongly supports an amendment to the constitution defining marriage as between a man and woman, has supported legislation allowing hospitals to deny abortion procedures to women even in life threatening cases, and expressed the desire for a personhood amendment defining life at conception, likely banning several forms of popular birth control in the process.
The views of Congressman Paul Ryan don’t appeal to any minority group or improve Romneys gender gap or standing with independents. Paul Ryan was a pick intended to show the Republican base Romney is dedicated to the conservative cause, a cause much more defined than his etch-a-sketch philosophy crafted over the past year. Ryan brings no electoral advantage to the ticket with Wisconsin either, a state that showed strong support for Obama even as they voted for Walker in the recall election.
Romney would have been better off picking a no name player that appealed to women or Hispanics, someone who was moderate and had a basic record. It may not have energized the base, but Romney should have made a longer attempt to appeal to independents or undecideds. He should have gambled that the Republicans would turnout for him anyway because their hate of Obama would overcome their apathy for his election.
But for all the seemingly awful reasons why not to pick a fringe man such as Ryan, it was an obvious choice for Romney. He needed a pick to shock his campaigns heartbeat back to life, and with a desolate national Republican leadership, a sleepy Tim Pawlenty or a former Bush budget director were not going to be able to deliver a strong enough jolt to give any purpose for continuing the train-wreck campaign of Romney’s. But in the catch-22 decision, he will likely find that the shock intended to aid his political survival will do little more than give poison to an already dead effort.