Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan provides many facets of analysis. Does this reflect the final step of extreme right wing domination of the GOP? Would Romney's decisions as President be subject to veto by the most radical element of the conservative movement? Would this just the first of many instance where, as Grover Norquist put is, Romney would just be an "autopen" for extreme right wing policies?
These are obviously important questions, but they all stem from an underlying assumption -- that the choice of Paul Ryan as the GOP's VP candidate harms Romney's chances of winning in November. I share this view. the main reason is Florida, a must win state for Romney. I can imagine victorious electoral maps for Romney where he loses Wisconsin or Iowa or Pennsylvania. I don;t see a winning Romney map where he loses Florida.
And the Ryan choice puts Romney's chances of winning Florida in extreme jeopardy. I'll explain why I think so on the flip.
Before moving to the Florida question, let's first consider Romney's options. The most talked about names were Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman and Ryan. Pawlenty would have been the non-event choice, having virtually no impact whatsoever on the race. A nonentity. But nonentities do no harm. A Presidential candidate confident that the trajectory of the race would lead to victory would most likely choose this type of candidate.
Did Romney conclude he required a "game changer," much as McCain did when he rolled the dice and chose Sarah Palin? I think we can assume he did. And that calculus seems not only reasonable, but strongly indicated.
So, let's assume an outside the box pick was in order for Romney. The question then would be who? Ryan certainly was an impactful choice, and this choice has driven the news cycle or the past 4 days and almost certainly will to the Republican convention.
The question then is whether this impact helps or hurts Romney's campaign? On the plus side, it has largely stopped the grumbling and complaints from the extreme right wing. Their enthusiasm has been recharged. there is an argument to be made that the Ryan choice helps Romney in Wisconsin to some small degree (enough to tip the state? Does not seem likely.) But what of the other dynamics of the race?
Paul Ryan's name is most associated with his budget plan, one of the most radical policy proposals we have ever seen from a major party in modern times. The 2010 version of the Ryan plan called for the elimination of the capital gains tax in its entirety. The result of such a policy would be that people like Mitt Romney would pay virtually no income taxes at all. This would certainly not help Romney's current struggle regarding his tax returns and the ongoing Democratic argument that Romney is the candidate for the rich who would enact policies that eviscerate government programs aimed at helping ordinary Americans in order to give even more to the rich. Let's mark this one down in the "not good for Romney" column.
Now about Florida. The Ryan choice is exceedingly bad for Romney's chances in Florida (because of his proposals to end Medicare as we know it and his championing of Bush's plans to privatize Social Security. Republicans, always vulnerable on Medicare and Social Security, are even more toxic on these issues when Ryan is involved), and thus threatens the entire Romney campaign. Romney simply can't win the election without Florida. I defy anyone to put together a plausible map for Romney winning the Presidency without Florida.
Thus, any decision Romney was to make on the VP choice should have adhered, first and foremost, to the following criteria: it could not hurt his chances in Florida. Romney made the one choice that did.
But Romney had to go long you might respond. What could he do? He needed to shake up the race. Well, maybe. But even if we assume this is true, there were other ways to "shake up the race" that did not hurt him in Florida. In fact, there was a choice that was "bold" and also had the virtue of likely helping Romney's chances in Florida -- Marco Rubio.
Was there a great deal of risk in choosing Rubio? Certainly, but there was no certainty that a Rubio choice would hurt Romney in Florida. There is with Paul Ryan, who is so toxic on Florida that he will not see the state except for the Republican convention.
Why not Rubio? I think Sarah Palin has a lot to do with that. To this day, the choice of Sarah Palin hangs over John McCain and the Republican Party. Is Rubio a more polished politician than Palin? Of course he is. But he is a first term Senator with no national political experience. Ryan has played in that league as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Ryan has also been adept at gulling the Beltway.
But Ryan's toxicity in Florida trumps all of these political attributes. He had a disqualifying trait - he damaged Romney's chances in Florida. He could not be selected by Romney.
And yet he was. I think Romney has done serious damage to his chances of winning the Presidency by choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate.
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