trench warfare

You can tell something about the shape of the campaign to come by Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate.

Tactically, it’s a good move – and may have a hidden benefit. First, the good move: if we know one thing about the upcoming election, it’s that most people have already made up their minds. Romney’s problem is that his support is unenthusiastic; no matter how much he says the words, he can’t quite get over with the conservative base, a point the Wall Street Journal made again this past week when it put out an editorial that endorsed Ryan. If this race is really about getting your supporters to vote, Ryan helps.

Hidden benefit: Romney does not do as well with women as he needs to do. I suspect Ryan helps on that front – it wouldn’t surprise me to learn there is internal polling that shows Ryan improves on Romney with women in general and younger women in particular. But what about his awful, extreme ideas?, the liberals and centrists reply. To which I say, pay attention to how he comes across, rather than what he says. I’ve watched Ryan on YouTube and am struck by how reassuring he is. He’s the handsome young father, beloved older brother and he smartly emphasizes the problem (the reader is left to decide whether the deficit is really the problem we have to confront now, given the state of employment) as opposed to his solutions.

The Obama team has its work cut out for it: emphasize Ryan’s record, and it runs the risk of appearing unfair, because Ryan will seem so much more reasonable than his proposals.

(Vice-President Biden may be the best thing the Obama folks have when it comes to Ryan. Biden should skewer him in a debate and do it with humor, the one thing Republicans can never master.)

Finally, I believe the small pool of genuinely undecided voters may include a disproportionately large number of  low information, single, younger females, and again, Ryan should help, for the reasons enumerated above.

Stepping back a bit, the selection of Ryan again confirms what we all know – the run from here to November will be a war of attrition, in which both sides look to maximize individual small advantages, and then pile up more of those advantages than the other guy. Nate Silver believes the race still leans Obama, but is tight. Even if we don’t see an uptick for Romney after the Ryan pick, (and we should), just quieting his right flank is worth a little something, and besides, it’s hard to imagine an alternative. Any less conservative pick would hurt Romney with the base, and – remembering peoples’ minds are pretty much made up – would not have an offsetting advantage with ‘the middle,’ whatever that means at this point.


7 thoughts on “trench warfare

  1. Ryan was a truly awful pick for Romney.

    Romney now leans more conservative in the general election than he did in the primary.

    Ryan will cost him support with the senior demographic, which votes early and often, over Ryan’s support for handing Medicare and Social Security to private business.

    To the contrary of your analysis, Ryan costs Romney any chance of converting a large number of swing voters and shores up support from those who would have voted for him anyway.

    It’s a sad attempt to get the conversation off Romney’s taxes and onto something else, only the “something else” will be Ryan’s horrific financial plans. Romney can distance himself from them all he wants — or tries to do — but he now owns the Ryan Budget.

    And you know that Romney’s folks thought very little of this because they leaked it on a late Friday night, and held the announcement during the Olympics. The ultimate Friday Night News Dump.

    And, brother, “dump” is the word.

    1. First order of business: ‘Idiot America’ was one of my two or three favorite books of the last few months, and only Charlie Pierce could write this “…being thought an intellectual by the likes of Louie Gohmert…”

      But let me point out that Pierce doesn’t say it’s a *bad* pick, when looked at from the Romney end of the camel.

      I just disagree with your take on things: I think almost everyone has decided how he or she will vote, and the path to victory for Romney is two-fold: a.) suppress turnout generally but b.) have everyone in the base vote.

      It’s a narrow ledge, and Romney is currently at a disadvantage. He’s playing from behind. What I suspect will happen is the carpet bombing of the airwaves in the contested states will be so transcendentally awful, so truly horrifying (and Obama will get dragged into it because you can’t not answer the ‘charges,’ as the Repubs unleash the hounds of hell) that vast swaths of the electorate will just hide. Run and hide. Seek shelter and hide. Be physically revolted at the very idea there is an election, let alone the two men in it. In this scenario, Romney ekes out a narrow win.

      I know I’m going against what the numbers say, what saner people like you believe, but I think there is simply no limit to the mendacity of the GOP/Fox/talk radio complex, and the one brake that existed – a finite amount of money – is no longer an issue.

      Needless to say, I hope you’re right and I’m a fool.

  2. Perhaps you’re right. However, I see the strong potential for the Ryan pick to do the opposite — to energize the folks who have gone soft on Obama (like me) because of the direct threat to Medicaid and Social Security.

    And this will, in fact, engage seniors but not in the way Romney wants.

    Silver sees the Ryan pick as a plus zero-point-one percent play for Romney; in other words, a barely perceptible improvement that looks for all the world like no change at all.


    The New York Times editorial on Ryan should be read aloud by Obama at every rally till Election Day. Here’s the perfect heart of a strong editorial:

    “As House Budget Committee chairman, Mr. Ryan has drawn a blueprint of a government that will be absent when people need it the most. It will not be there when the unemployed need job training, or when a struggling student needs help to get into college. It will not be there when a miner needs more than a hardhat for protection, or when a city is unable to replace a crumbling bridge.

    And it will be silent when the elderly cannot keep up with the costs of M.R.I.’s or prescription medicines, or when the poor and uninsured become increasingly sick through lack of preventive care.

    More than three-fifths of the cuts proposed by Mr. Ryan, and eagerly accepted by the Tea Party-driven House, come from programs for low-income Americans. That means billions of dollars lost for job training for the displaced, Pell grants for students and food stamps for the hungry.”

    If Obama says these things and says them this well, the race is over shortly after Labor Day.

    Again, by picking Ryan, Romney owns Ryan’s budget and his fucked-up Randian philosophies.

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