I don't usually post on the weekends, and seldom do I check up on the news. But I happened to notice that Romney had selected his running mate for 2012. Romney's choice of Paul Ryan has stirred a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle, as well as in the media. Obama expressed his admiration for Ryan, even as he expressed his direct opposition to his policies. John McCain endorsed the choice, saying it was a new generation for the party, and a new direction with new leadership. Ryan, for his part, has hit the ground running, campaigning in Iowa and making several speeches to accept the pick for the VP slot.
In many ways, the Ryan pick makes a lot of sense. For one thing, Ryan is a great complement to Romney. Romney is a moderate Republican at best, has a hard time nailing down specifics on any plan or policy, and struggles against the most conservative core of his base. Ryan answers all of these drawbacks. His message and policies are clear and consistent. He has a very specific plan for America and is not afraid to run with it. He is a favorite of the Tea Party conservative base. And, he has a strong head for conservative politics. While Romney has often touted his socially conservative positions, Ryan focuses more on governance and politics, meaning they cover both aspects of conservatism very well.
But Ryan does not come without drawbacks of his own. He's been a Congressman since the late 90's, but has limited private sector experience, something conservatives in particular tend to value very highly in their candidates. He's also very divisive, with his plans that tend to eliminate any good will between the Left and Right. But the biggest problem with Ryan is that he is a blatant Social Darwinist. While that might strengthen his credentials among neo-con circles, it will alienate the all-important undecideds, and will likely turn the minds of many moderates as well. Ryan's budget plan was a rallying call for conservatives, but it is a disastrous piece of legislation when it comes to the people. Ryan's plan calls for massive cuts to medicaid, food stamps, education, etc. He wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program rather than a guaranteed support for seniors. He wants to slash spending on infrastructure, and his plan would force the government to eliminate every major agency due to a lack of tax revenue. That's because Ryan's plan is to not only cut those programs that benefit the poor, but also to cut the taxes on the wealthiest Americans (under his plan, Romney would pay about 0.82% in taxes because Ryan would eliminate taxes on capital gains, interest, and would get rid of the estate tax entirely).
Again, this is a rallying call for many conservatives, who feel that these programs are superfluous, wasteful, unnecessary, job-killing government control programs. But for the average American, these proposals are directly harmful to their way of life. Romney, being no stranger to divisive tactics himself, does not seem to realize that he is essentially handing the election to Obama, even if his base is happy.
And here's the interesting thing about this appointment. It's almost too good to be true for Obama. As I've said, Ryan is a hard-line conservative who's going to get very little support with moderates. He's been outspoken about his plans for slashing social programs, his belief that the poor are freeloaders, and that top-down, trickle-down economics coupled with egregious austerity measures are inherently American and the only logical course of action. Remind you of anyone? Some liberal analysts have looked at this appointment by Romney and see a strong resemblance to the McCain/Palin ticket of 2008. It seems the Conservatives have done the same thing: tie a long-running moderate with a fresh, new, neo-con that cares more about uniting the base than reaching across the aisle. The similarities in their partnership is uncanny. Palin continues to be a divisive figure in our political culture, traipsing around the country as if she were an important political figure. Ryan, of course, is starting in a similar position, being brought in on a party ticket to try and appease a base that's not entirely happy with its prospects.
It's almost as if Obama planned this appointment himself. And, in a way, he did. By focusing on Romney's lack of specifics, moderate record, and generalizing platitudes, the Obama campaign forced Romney to seek and select a running mate that met these specific criticisms. It had to be someone who was an unashamed conservative, with a clear message and plan, and who wasn't afraid to stick to it under heavy opposition. No other VP option had that kind of clout, and so Ryan it is. More evidence of the Obama campaign anticipating this appointment can be seen in how quickly they gathered their response. Within hours, campaign ads were flying, speeches were being given, and pundits were sounding off on the selection by Romney. It appears as though Obama pushed Romney's buttons in just the right way to get him to select Ryan.
I'm sure that, if the Obama campaign had focused all of it's attention on Romney's anti-immigration stance, Romney would have selected Marco Rubio. But rather than dividing the hispanic vote, it appears Obama went for a more clean-cut conservative that wouldn't have a big impact on his own voter demographics. Smart move. Now, let's see how the two campaigns duke it out until election day. It's going to be an interesting couple of months...