Why Ryan Won’t Help Romney
He’s sexy, charming, articulate -- but exactly the wrong choice for Republicans.
In its 164 years as a state, no one from Wisconsin has ever been a candidate for president or vice-president for the two major parties. So the Paul Ryan pick is sensational news for this long overlooked state. But will he help Romney carry Wisconsin — or any state in the union?
He’s certainly good looking. For those miffed by how much attention is paid to the physical attributes of women candidates, we bring you Paul Ryan, the poster boy for reverse sexism. He’s been dubbed “handsome and charming,” by Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore, not to mention “hot,” “sexy,” with “dreamy blue eyes,” who “looks like Superman,” as a story in Politico dished about Wisconsin’s super stud.
Ryan, we are told, flirted with trying to become a pro skier, and is a super-svelte workout fanatic, at six feet, two inches and a mere 163 pounds.
Moore suggested this may aid Romney with women, and he needs all the help he can get. In Wisconsin and other states, polls show Romney trails badly among women voters.
Ryan also brings the potential of firing up the Republican base, which has been suspicious of Romney, given his rather liberal days as Massachusetts governor. Ryan certainly brings it for the right: He gets a 0 percent rating from the ACLU and 92 percent from the American Conservative Union.
Ryan is also articulate and genuine, in a way that Romney will never be. There’s so much that’s off-limits with Romney — his religion (because of negative views people have of Mormonism), his tax returns, his once-liberal views on issues like abortion — which often reduces the candidate to banalities and double-speak.
But not Ryan. “He’s a normal guy. That shows when you see him on the campaign trail,” says Wisconsin’s Assembly Speaker Scott Fitzgerald. It sounds like damning with faint praise until you consider what it says about Romney. For many religious conservatives in the Republican Party, there’s nothing normal — or Christian — about Mormonism. Ryan is a solid, Catholic, Midwestern guy, the sort of super-straight student all the teachers liked.
Ryan “joined nearly every (high) school club: Latin Club, History Club, the Letterman’s Club, for varsity athletes, and the International Geographic Society,” a New Yorker profile revealed. “At the end of his senior year, he was elected Biggest Brown-Noser.”
Ryan gave a very good speech Saturday and has continued to impress the media with his podium pizzaz. He will be a youthful, energetic campaigner and will probably draw bigger crowds than the often-robotic Romney.
Of course, that’s just what Sarah Palin brought to the GOP ticket in 2008. She had great appeal for the Republican base, but they still didn’t flock to the polls because people vote for the president, not the V-P, and John McCain was too moderate for true conservatives. Historically, vice-presidents have rarely had much impact on elections.
Indeed, they don’t even have a large impact in their home state. Silver has gone back through elections historically to measure that, and concludes that the vice-president, on average, has given the ticket a two-percent increase in the vote in his/her home state. But many of those V-P candidates held state-wide office; Ryan’s congressional district includes just one-eighth of the state and polls have shown more than a third of Wisconsinites have no opinion of Ryan. Among those who do, he has high negatives: 38 percent approve, 33 percent disapprove, Silver notes.
Silver appears dubious Ryan will provide an average, two-percent bounce, but his model gives Romney this anyway and that changes Wisconsin, based on all polls to date, from a state where Obama has an 88 percent chance of winning to an 80 percent chance of winning. Not much of a bump there.
Meanwhile, there is a huge downside risk for Romney’s pick nationally. His overwhelming advantage is the economy. No modern president with an eight percent unemployment rate has ever won reelection. Romney’s best chance of beating an incumbent is on the economy, on the hope he could bring more jobs.
That’s why Obama wants to make this an election about Romney’s wealth and tax returns and his alleged alienation from the middle class. Polls show 64 percent of all Americans believe Romney favors the rich over the middle class and 68 percent of independents have that belief.
Ryan will help cement that belief. The Ryan budget plan, if anything, tilts more toward the rich than even Romney’s current views do.
As a New York Times analysis notes, Ryan’s plan, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, would give people earning more than $1 million a year an additional $265,000 apiece in new tax cuts, on average, on top of the $129,000 they would get from his extension of President Bush’s tax cuts. After-tax incomes would rise by 12.5 percent among millionaires, but just 1.8 percent for middle-income households. Low-income working families would actually be hit with tax increases.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, “of the $4 trillion in spending cuts (Ryan) proposes over the next decade, two-thirds involve cutting programs that mainly serve low-income Americans. And by repealing last year’s health reform, without any replacement, the plan would also deprive an estimated 34 million nonelderly Americans of health insurance.”
The Ryan plan, the think tank charges, “is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids. It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).”
Ryan not only crystallizes the negative vision of Romney as the plutocrat who serves the wealthy, he plays to what has historically been the Democrats single greatest advantage — that they will protect Medicare. His budget plan greatly reduces federal spending on both Medicare and Medicaid, which besides its payments to low-income people, has also become a major funder of long-term care and nursing homes for the elderly. Not surprisingly, Ryan gets just a six percent positive ranking from the Alliance for Retired Persons.
To be sure, Republicans will have answers: they will argue that tax cuts to the wealthy will help create jobs, and cuts in government health care spending will foster competition among providers for scarcer dollars.
But historically, these have not been issues they can win. President George W. Bush labored long and hard to transform social security and got nowhere. Seniors, who vote in droves, will be just as fearful of losing Medicare.
Ryan is a zealot who contends the country must face these issues eventually. Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean you make it a campaign issue. As Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and countless other candidates have proven, the key to victory is carrying America’s still-broad middle class. Paul Ryan’s remarkably sweeping views, whether you call them “bold” or “radical,” will make it much harder to Romney to win middle America.