The Ryan Effect
By: Robert E. Meyer
In the early morning hours of Saturday, August 11th, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced his running mate selection to be Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, a rising star among conservatives within the party. Like any selection, it can be praised for its benefits, as well as criticized for its apparent liabilities.
Personally, I saw the Ryan selection as one of the top two possible choices. The two big “R”.s in the equation were Ryan and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. While people should be more concerned with who is on the top of a political ticket than who is on the bottom, Ryan brings some additional conservative credibility, casting doubt on the perception among staunch conservatives that Romney is something of a milquetoast, The selection is bold in that it shows Romney was not shy in picking the candidate who could be a controversial lightning-rod. In addition, in Ryan, he has a guy who helps set his candidacy in stark contrast with the Obama-Biden known commodity, and avoids a conspicuous lurch toward the middle that would have been actualized in the selection of a “safer” pick.
I saw Rubio as the overall better selection based on conventional wisdom. Rubio is from a swing-state with more electoral votes than Wisconsin, and Romney probably needs to carry Florida to win the presidency. Rubio might have done more to bring Hispanic voters sitting on the fence into the conservative camp, but who really knows? Finally, Rubio missing from the Senate was not as keen a loss for the conservative movement as Ryan is from the House of Representatives.
That said, I see Ryan as the bolder pick, even if less conventionally advantageous. Ryan has already drawn criticism for his efforts to address the budgetary expense of entitlements, chiefly Medicare. That being the case, it won’t take much effort to demonize his countenance and misrepresent his intensions. Liberals will have a field day with their attack pieces criticizing him. But, Ryan, if anyone, is going to be up to the task. Ryan comes across as sincere, extremely knowledgeable, and has the knack to articulate the specifics of certain issues in a way that makes the point. This is what is needed to counter the rhetorical punch of the bumper-sticker slogans that so captivate uninformed voting America.
Romney’s chief polling difficulty is his unpopularity among single women. The democratic candidate will traditionally will have a distinct disadvantage with this constituency. But Obama has been able to use recent issues to amplify and parlay Romney’s built-in disadvantage. His “War on women” spiel seemed ridiculous, but is nevertheless effective in vilifying Romney. When I was more politically naïve, I would have thought someone was joking, if they suggested the abortion issue was really about curtailing women’s rights, not about protecting the lives of developing humans.
Romney’s Mormon faith hasn’t been a big issue in the media lately. In selecting a Roman Catholic in Ryan, it’s hard to say if that affiliation presents any advantages either way. It is noteworthy, however, that some Catholic Bishops have placed Ryan on notice that in their opinion, some of his economic policy positions violate tenets of the faith. It should be noted that Robert Bork made an interesting observation in his tome “Slouching toward Gomorrah.” Bork suggested that on issues other than abortion, the Catholic Bishops resembled the Democratic Party in robes. That tends to facilitate the “Jesus was a liberal” mantra.
We can see how this mentality, if accurately observed, has gotten the church a prime position between a rock and a hard place. While the Catholic Church has opposed Osama’s attempts to infringe on their First Amendment rights in the health care debate, they still largely concur with Obama’s appeals to the obtuse themes of the social justice movement.
Can Romney win with Ryan? A better question is can Romney win without him? In choosing Ryan, there is an obviously crafted distinction between the two major choices voters will have. The choice is between financial stewardship and unsustainable entitlement that will fundamentally transform America into bankruptcy.