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Mitt Romney naming Paul Ryan as his running mate has provoked celebration among Democrats and the Obama campaign as they believe the “Ryan Budget” – which would radically alter Medicare and offer tax breaks for the wealthy – is unpopular with swing voters and Americans at large.
But it may be premature to break out the champagne. Ryan, a 42-year-old from Wisconsin who heads the Budget Committee in the House of Representatives, may actually be just the person the Romney campaign needs. Here’s why:
Ryan puts a charismatic face on the difference between Republicans and Democrats.
In modern politics Republicans stand for smaller government and tax cuts. Democrats stand for investment in the future and the wealthy paying their “fair share.” No Republican embodies his party’s position more than Ryan, whose controversial budget plan is practically a Tea Party manifesto. Few politicians articulate the Republican position as well as Ryan; a wunderkind of sorts who was first elected to Congress at the age of 27. While Romney has never quite found his voice in this campaign, the insertion of Ryan into the race makes the Presidential election a referendum on the two starkly different governing philosophies.
When given a choice, swing voters have been picking the Republican path.
The 2010 midterms, as well as the recall election in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, indicated that the electorate may be deeply skeptical of Democrats and willing to embrace the pro-business, deficit-cutting positions of Ryan and the Republicans. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker became a lightning rod for controversy when he slashed benefits to public employees after giving a tax break to the wealthy and businesses. He became the first sitting governor in state history to be recalled. Yet he then won convincingly by a wider margin than the first time and with more citizens casting votes. While Wisconsin is just one state, it points to how Tea Party-backed candidates and conservative Republicans can compete in the marketplace of ideas and come out on top.
This election is all about turnout, and Ryan will help with that.
Most polls have President Barack Obama up by a point or two, with only about 7 percent of voters undecided. That means it’s unlikely there will be any huge swings between now and November, and the race will largely come down to who turns out on Election Day. Ryan is deeply popular among the Republican party base and has conservative bona fides that some say Romney lacks. His presence on the ticket can only serve to mobilize the Republican electorate and that could make a difference on Election Day.
While it is true that the Ryan budget includes provisions that are fundementally unpoplar with the average voter – specifically any tax cut to the wealthiest Americans – Ryan is a convincing public speaker and emits a golden boy quality that swing voters may react to well. Before Democrats start celebrating, they better ask themselves why the Tea Party has won so many state and local level elections, and find a rememedy. Simply baiting Ryan for his Medicare proposal and tax philopsophy probably won’t be enough to counter the many positives the Ryan selection brings to the Republican ticket.