As I predicted many months ago, Mitt Romney has picked US Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate. I knew when I saw them campaign together during the primaries that they would be the dream team for the Republican Party, and maybe the dream opponent for the Democratic Party.
Let’s make one thing clear: Paul Ryan is no Sarah Palin. He is an articulate speaker and an ambitious campaigner. Unlike Palin, he is also intelligent. He’s been in the House of Representatives since he was 29. He was first elected to the House in 1999 with 57 per cent of the vote. Since then he has received over 60 per cent of the vote in all his reelection bids which is very impressive since his Wisconsin district is a swing district that Obama won by four points in 2008. In that district, one in every five Obama voters also voted for Paul Ryan. So there is clearly something about him that appeals to Independents and even moderate Democrats. This should be worrying to the Obama camp.
However, that election took place before Paul Ryan introduced his infamous budget, which slashes medicare and calls for massive tax cuts for the rich. The “Ryan budget” was described by the New York Times as “the most extreme budget plan passed by a House of Congress in modern times.”
The budget has been very controversial because it places the burden of our deficit on America’s senior citizens so the rich can get more tax cuts they do not need. The plan ends medicare as we know it and irresponsibly slashes the benefits we need to keep our economy growing. The budget also cuts veterans benefits while wrecklessly increasing defense spending. The budget is such a boost to the wealthy in America that Paul Begala of The Daily Beast has labeled Romney-Ryan “The Plutocrat Ticket.”
Economists from all political backgrounds have said that the budget would actually add trillions to the deficit and would not have a prayer in balancing the budget for about 30 years, which is way too long.
The budget has been criticized by Catholic bishops calling it “destructive to the poor and marginalized in America.” Ryan, a Catholic, has not responded to the bishops’ criticisms. The “Nuns on the Bus” tour was also started partly as a response to the Ryan budget. It is indubitable that the Ryan budget goes against the teachings of the VP candidate’s religion.
The controversy over the budget is so vociferous that it was the lightning rod of the debate in a New York 2011 special election, where Democrat Kathy Hochul won in a very conservative upstate district. Her win is attributed to the vast unpopularity of the Ryan budget. Clearly, Obama will now make medicare a centerpiece in his campaign, with the hopes that it will bring him the support that Hochul saw in 2011.
While many Democrats are giddy about Ryan being on the ticket because they now have a new path of attack on the Romney campaign, they should not shed all worries. I predicted that Romney would pick Paul Ryan because he energizes the conservative base, and that solves a big problem for Romney. Paul Ryan being number two on the ticket will bring in a flood of donations from euphoric tea partiers and conservatives. Picking Paul Ryan marks the first bold decision that Mitt Romney has made during the campaign, which would impress some voters who view Romney as unwilling to take risks.
Many Republicans are also giddy about Ryan being on the ticket, however, the anti-government crowd may be a little uneasy about the fact that Paul Ryan has never worked outside of the government since he graduated from college. And even though he is not Sarah Palin, a trait he does have in common with her is his utter lack of foreign policy experience. Ryan’s lack of foreign policy experience means that neither name on the Republican ticket has any real foreign policy experience, which is troubling to many independents.
Bottom line, any Democrat who believes that the selection of Paul Ryan guarantees an easy Obama victory is a fool. Also any Republican who believes that Paul Ryan’s baggage will not be a potential liability to the Romney campaign is also a fool. Paul Ryan’s budget may not be popular, but it also eliminates the dullness of Romney’s campaign. It will be interesting to see if Paul Ryan ends of being a boost or a blunder.