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Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as the Republican’s Vice Presidential candidate this Saturday. So who exactly is Paul Ryan, and what does this selection tell us about how the Romney campaign and the fight for the Presidency is shaping up to be?
Paul Ryan is the US State Representative for the state of Wisconsin, and also chair of the House Budget Committee. Over the past couple of years his plans for the US budget has been the subject of much conversation and controversy; he mostly talks up the need to cut debt and spending, and the way he seems to want to go about that is through slashing funding for welfare programs, among others. He’s very conservative politically and quite a favorite among the GOP.
Ryan seems to be widely considered very intelligent and competent. Many see him as a rising star, someone young and ambitious, and many have written about how he, in many ways, somewhat overshadows the actual presidential candidate, Romney. His plans are now what’s brought up whenever the policy of the republican presidential candidacy is discussed and he seems to be considerably more charismatic than Romney, who doesn’t seem particularly ideological or at least does not give off the impression of being genuinely passionate about ideology, and is seen as rather bland.
As someone who has made his name almost entirely on policy issues–namely his Ryan plan for the budget–there is widespread expectation that the conversations in this election cycle are finally going to go back to some talk of actual policy instead of mostly mudslinging and generally trying to point out what terrible people the other side are. Though that’s perhaps almost unrealistically optimistic.
Much like Romney and the current Republican Party, he’s anti-abortion and against gay adoption and gay marriage and has a fairly poor record for supporting women’s rights. He also supports further tax cuts for the rich and for businesses, and since taxes on the wealthy won’t be going towards cutting the debt in his plan, he intends on fighting the deficit by cutting government spending in welfare programs and education spending, which means the recipients of these welfare programs are going to be considerably worse off. Namely, the poor and seniors, whose medical care is paid for by the rather intuitively named Medicare.
These exact same stances are very similar to everything that the current Republican party seems to push for and that Romney has presented, so this was a VP pick that was reinforcing those ideas instead of trying to provide something different or appeal to a different angle or set of voters.
So what does this tell us about Romney’s campaign? Well, Romney could really have gone two different angles with his campaign now that he’s almost certainly going to be the Republican candidate for President to run against Obama. He could’ve tried to capture moderate voters who aren’t really very much on one side or the other, who almost undoubtedly, like everyone else in America, are unhappy with the economy as it is right now.
By trying to move a bit more from the right to the center and hoping that with the votes from conservatives and enough of a share from moderates, he could try to win the election. Along those lines, he could’ve even tried to reach out to groups rather alienated by Republican policies like women or Latinos.
However, Romney has never really been popular with conservatives who are the base of the Republican Party; when the primary elections to choose a party candidate to run for President were going on people, seemed to want any other choice, but all of the other options turned out to be too problematic for various reasons.
Earlier in his political career, when he was Governor of his home state of Massachusetts, Romney’s policies had been very different and not very right-wing, but now as he fights for the presidential nomination, he’s had to backtrack on a lot of it, and this gives the impression to a lot of conservatives that he hasn’t been conservative enough in the past. As a result, he’s not too popular among the conservative base.
So by choosing Paul Ryan as his VP pick, he has thoroughly burnished his credentials as a right-wing guy who’d bring about right-wing policy if elected President. This means Romney has decided that the support of an energized and enthusiastic conservative base could be more useful than attempting to win over moderates and risk losing support from the conservatives. Also, he’s doubled down on policies that would be useful to businesses and the rich–less regulation, lower taxes on them–so companies and the wealthy looking out for their own interests are more likely to back him.
Many average Americans are pretty apathetic about politics, an apathy that has only been increasing recently with widespread mistrust of all government. However, conservatives have been pretty fired up lately. He’s made the gamble that an enthusiastic base of people who are going to vote and fund a campaign, as well as guarantee lots of campaign funding from businesses and the rich to go towards ads and campaigning, is going to be more useful than hoping to get the more apathetic moderates to vote for him.
Voting isn’t compulsory in the US, so only 50-60% of eligible voters actually vote, and of course more dedicated groups are more likely to vote. Of course, now the Obama campaign will target those same moderates (already begun–the Obama campaign has been focusing a lot on how they would be so much better for the middle class and for women’s rights) because if enough of them care enough to vote, Obama has a pretty great chance of winning, but that’s the gamble Romney’s made now.
Will Obama be able to inspire those moderates enough to actually vote and convince them that voting for him would be good for them, or will lots of ads and campaigning funded by the wealthy and an enthusiastic base of conservatives who will definitely be going to vote when November rolls around, be enough for Romney to win? We’ll have to see how it plays out over the next three months.
Image Courtesy of monkeyz_uncle