Early Saturday morning it became official. Romney’s Vice-Presidential pick was none other than Budget Committee Chairman and policy wonk Paul Ryan (R-WI). In less than a day much has already been spoken on the pick but I just wanted to add my few thoughts to the mix.
I cannot completely ignore good points when I hear them. Over at RCP Scott Conroy wrote a very interesting and intelligent piece about Romney’s VP Pick being a high-risk, high reward candidate. That is my impression as well. In a piece for RCP Sean Trende points out where the risk is in Romney’s campaign.
Romney’s campaign can debate it but they have all but given up on winning more than 30% of the minority vote this election cycle. This means to make up the difference Romney is counting on a plethora of new white voters to come to his side. Among whites, the GOP’s base is predominantly among college educated males, seniors and blue-collar whites. But the Ryan budget does not appear to be popular among blue-collar whites and seniors for obvious reasons. This is the big risk the Romney campaign is taking.
Despite this major risk however something made the campaign and Romney decide on Ryan. This would be the reward. It was not just that Ryan puts Wisconsin in play. After all if that were the case Romney could have picked Portman in Ohio or better yet McDonnell in Virginia. Nor could it just be that Ryan is young and charismatic. It likely falls down to two big reasons. First, that by picking Ryan as his running mate he is getting serious on policy and voters will reward him for it in contrast to Obama. Picking the man responsible for proposing major changes in the third rail of politics (entitlements) says a lot about what policy direction your presidency would take. Second, whatever downsides Ryan has are already baked into the electorate.
The second big reason why Romney likely picked Ryan has particular credence. Strong supporters of the president are easily identifiable by their geography and racial affiliation. Ryan is not going to change that. Likewise, at some point during the campaign Ryan’s budget plan would be brought up by the president against Romney. Romney would then have to address it. Considering Romney already endorsed the budget prior to picking Ryan as his VP whatever damage has been done with Romney’s pick was likely to be done regardless. In other words if a vast majority of whites are going to back Romney in November a Paul Ryan is not going to change their votes.
Ryan does have many other positive attributes that go beyond just being young and a policy wonk. He hails from a swing state suburban district, the kind Romney needs to win nationwide to compete with Obama. Ryan in the past has acted much as Marco Rubio has by being a bridge between the Tea Party and the establishment. He can be an attack dog when he needs to but does not come out as petty when he does so. Lastly, he seems to get along with everybody, including Romney and Democrats that attack him on his budget. Democrats in Congress may oppose his ideas but they seem to respect his work ethic and tireless devotion to the country.
In short, Romney’s pick of Ryan as his VP gives a clear signal his campaign is ready to wade into serious policy debates with Obama. It aims to bridge a gap between the Tea Party and establishment (and that means more money for the Romney camp) And that overall the Romney camp believes Ryan gives them more advantages than negatives. This is a big risk, especially for a campaign banking on winning almost (if no more) than 60% of the white vote. But it could be worth it.
As for the implications of Romney’s VP pick affecting Congressional and Senate races. I’ll leave you something on that here.