My Take on the R&R Ticket
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s recent selection of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to be his running mate has prompted reaction from left, right, and center. What has been missing until now is the reaction of the Den Mother.
Let me say it up front. I’m not a big Mitt Romney fan. While I believe he would be about a thousand percent better than Barack Obama simply from an economic standpoint (and, really, who wouldn’t?), that doesn’t mean I like him. I don’t. Polls have shown that his “likability” factor, whatever that means, just isn’t that high. If the election is about whom you’d want to have a beer summit with, Romney loses. It’s his Achilles heel. [Edit: And not just because Romney is a Mormon and doesn’t drink.]
Every presidential candidate has one. Traditionally, the selection of a running mate is designed to offset the candidate’s biggest vulnerability. John Kennedy was a New England Catholic who needed to appeal to southern Protestant voters, so he picked Lyndon Johnson. Jimmy Carter was a southern Governor who needed northern votes and contacts in Washington, so he picked Walter Mondale. Barack Obama was an inexperienced newcomer who needed to add someone with experience, so he picked Joe Biden. Or maybe the Biden pick was intended to make Obama appear more statesmanlike next to such a buffoon.
But seriously, Romney’s likability gap isn’t his only problem. He isn’t all that trusted among conservatives, who don’t care for his past flip-flops on key conservative issues. They seem to find him fiscally acceptable (with the exception of Romneycare) but their support is reluctant. He appears to have overcome both these obstacles with the Ryan selection.
I don’t know a lot about Ryan except that he is a rising star in the Republican party and he has formulated a federal budget framework that begins to tackle the problem of future unfunded entitlement liability. Some key Democrats have praised his plan as sensible and necessary, or at least they did before he became a threat to their incumbent’s re-election. I also know that he is immensely popular in his home state among voters of both parties and no party. He has the likability factor to go along with the conservative chops many GOP voters think Romney lacks.
As for Ryan’s less substantive characteristics, namely his age and physical appearance, those might be issues for some voters but not for me. I don’t care that he’s younger than I am. I’ve never gone for the “black Irish” look. His workout regimen is important to me only insofar as it keeps him healthy. But, God help us, there are voters for whom appearance is a factor. In that regard, he doesn’t hurt.
And the thought of Ryan being a heartbeat away from the presidency doesn’t make me break out in a cold sweat, the way I do when I think of Joe “Gaffe Factory” Biden interacting with the world’s leaders.
Besides, “Ryan” fits well with that Romney campaign logo.
Overall, in my humble estimation, this was a good pick. Now let’s go have an election.