It’s official: Mitt Romney has chosen Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to be his running mate. He is most well-known for his work as chairman of the House Budget Committee, in which he proposed some drastic cuts to Medicare. He has risen to near-celebrity status as one of the Republicans’ primary attack dogs, and he brings with him a set of characteristics that have the potential to cut both ways, and either help or hurt him. To be specific:
1. He energizes the conservative base/He is very alienating to people outside the far right.
Romney has been dealing with the problem of his conservative credentials being questioned due to his socially liberal past, as well as his apparent tendency to flip flop, and his gratuitously uncharismatic style. Paul Ryan provides a message that excites, in particular, the Tea Party, as well as the religious conservatives (he is a devout Catholic). I would think there could be more conservatives at the polls thanks to this choice. However, the flip side is that his reputation as both a social conservative and a “budget hawk” will give the Democrats a more definitive conservative figure to rally against. Obama’s top adviser David Axelrod has already called him a “right wing ideologue.” The lack of liberal enthusiasm for Obama could be solved by this choice, and independents may in fact be more likely to vote for Obama if they feel that his proposed cuts could threaten their well-being. This particularly applies to seniors. Also, with two white males on the ticket, this effectively leaves most minorities in the Obama camp, particularly after all the Marco Rubio buzz.
2. He is highly intelligent/He is an egghead.
The Republicans have had an unfortunate tendency for their own to say many things that made them sound, well, stupid (i.e. Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, George W. Bush, Dan Quayle, etc.) Paul Ryan presents no such problem. His grasp of economics, budget issues, and politics in general is impressive. He will not get himself into trouble with silly catchphrases. He has even been compared to Bill Clinton in terms of his wit. Independents in particular may be drawn to this. However, note that academic intelligence has sometimes caused candidates to be perceived as out of touch, and it can cost them (i.e. John Kerry, Al Gore, Adlai Stevenson). Although it is typically Republicans who accuse Democrats of being egghead know-nothings, it would be interesting if this reversed that trend.
3. He presents bold and concrete proposals for change/He frightens certain factions of people.
While his plan certainly is bold, it also has potential consequences that would be devastating for groups such as seniors, an obviously influential voting bloc. Many fear that his plans could greatly cost them, which can be a bad political move during an economic crisis.
Honorable mentions: He scores high on the comeliness factor/He looks like a politician; He is an upstanding family man with like values/He exacerbates Romney’s trouble with women; You know exactly where he stands/You know exactly where he stands (i.e. Barry Goldwater).
In conclusion, I find this to be a strategically poor choice, in which the second option for the above points may play out more often than not. For all the talk about energizing the conservative base, I would say that they didn’t really need that, as the anti-Obama hysteria can do that for them. Now, Obama has much more of a rallying point that he hasn’t really had since 2008. Picking a diehard conservative with a divisive fiscal record will cause headaches with all the key groups: women, Blacks, Hispanics, independents, and seniors (there goes Florida). I think this shows Republican strategists are already looking to 2016, much like in 2004 the Democrats were looking to 2008. They will use this election, as well as the Republican National Convention, as launching point for several of what they consider their good candidates. Most likely Marco Rubio, as well as Paul Ryan, and possibly others. Bottom line, Obama will win because he is not hated enough. Plain and simple.