Shortly after news broke that Mitt Romney had selected Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, my friend, Matt Davies — the very smart and witty Pulitzer-prize winning editorial cartoonist — made a great comment:
So the presidential candidate chose a massive lightning rod of a VP to toss red meat to right wing ideologues and shore up the base. But enough about 2008.
Do Democrats see this as a repeat of Sen. John McCain’s polarizing pick of Sarah Palin? Many do, and with good reason: Ryan may be a liability in the eyes of some very key undecided voters. His selection is surely going to be seen as Romney’s attempt to appeal to those in his party who skew far right.
And look how that turned out for the GOP four years ago.
On the surface, it takes some bite out of one of the complaints the GOP has had about President Obama — that he’s never had ‘real world experience’ in the private sector. Neither has Ryan—he’s a career politician himself. Ryan has no foreign policy experience, unless you count being able to ‘see’ Canada from Wisconsin. But those would be the surface potshots.
In more substantial terms, Romney’s choice will definitely have a ripple effect in ways that will make the Dems happy. It immediately shines a spotlight on some of the right’s biggest vulnerabilities. First and foremost, Ryan’s wide-reaching budget plan that jolted even members of his own party when it was introduced.
It’s been widely quoted that, according to a report in the Atlantic, Romney’s tax rate in 2010 would have only been a mere 0.82 percent. No wonder Mitt likes him. But the issue of releasing tax returns is going to keep following the GOP’s presumptive nominee for POTUS, and the proposed Ryan plan is going to draw even more attention to the issue of how fairly the public is taxed — or not. It strengthens the appearance that Romney and his party stand for cutting taxes for the rich, to the detriment of everyone else.
Swing voters are amongst those who will listen most closely now that Romney has chosen Ryan. Polls show that independents, seniors and women haven’t been fans of the Ryan plan, and it will hurt the GOP not only in the presidential race but across the ballots as well for pivotal Congressional and Senate seats. But even more alarming for the GOP? Ryan’s efforts against Medicare may even put Florida securely in the blue, and be a major strike against the Republican ticket for seniors in general.
Some readers might dismiss that opinion coming from a Democrat, but what if the same thought came from AARP, the non-profit group representing seniors and retirees. AARP’s 2011 report on the Ryan plan was titled, “Medicare in the Crosshairs.” Here’s one point they made out of many:
An analysis of the Ryan plan by the politically neutral Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2030, typical 65-year-olds would pay 68 percent of the cost of their coverage out of pocket, compared with the 25 percent share they pay now. In dollar terms, the average 65-year-old’s costs would be more than double from about $6,000 a year under current law to $12,500 by 2022, and would be higher for older people.
But let’s talk about how choosing Ryan will energize the Democrats.
His budget plan’s cuts pointedly targeted social programs and dug deep and harsh against voters who are most needy, programs the GOP prefers to call entitlement handouts. Coupled with the party’s proposed tax cuts for the rich, the ‘R&R’ team is going to be seen as having an approach that moves too far, too fast, and as willing to leave the needy even more vulnerable.
Now here’s a biggie: Ryan is widely viewed as someone who has aggressively taken on women’s rights and health issues, someone you might even call a ‘General’ in the ‘War on Women.’ Women and younger voters who were undecided will certainly tune in to the fact that Ryan has had women’s rights on his target list from day one.
He is against a woman’s right to choose, and has long been committed to ban abortion, even in cases of incest and rape. He co-sponsored the ‘personhood’ bill that defines life as beginning at conception. He has pushed for defunding Planned Parenthood, which would eliminate health care options for millions of needy women; and he’s decidedly pro-life, according to an interview he gave John McCormack of the Weekly Standard in 2010:
"I’m as pro-life as a person gets," Ryan told me in July. "You’re not going to have a truce. Judges are going to come up. issues come up, they’re unavoidable, and I’m never going to not vote pro-life."
As for other social issues of importance to democrats, Ryan is also considered unfavorable toward environmental concerns, putting big business needs above all else, and denying global warming science.
That, coupled with his vote against the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and wanting to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage, Paul Ryan is decidedly someone who will get Dems out to the polls in November.
Coming from a libertarian-leaning Republican who wants to keep government out of people’s lives — except women people, it seems; oh and gay soldier people; and breathe fresh air people — Ryan is as invasive as it gets.
Romney’s choice is a strong statement, meant to energize and shore up the GOP’s base. But it also shows the weaknesses in his party’s presumed ticket. As the weight of the Romney-Ryan combo makes more cracks in its own foundation, his VP choice may have served to show just how weak Romney really looks.