Politically, Paul Ryan is a proving to be a worse choice as a vice-presidential nominee than even Sarah Palin.
Sure, Ryan may be able to name the newspapers he reads, mark up an Appropriations bill and charm reporters. But where Sarah Palin added energy to John McCain’s ticket — briefly skyrocketing the 2008 GOP nominee past candidate Obama in the polls — any boost Ryan offered was marginal and quickly faded away.
Conservatives have already started the second-guessing of the Ryan choice, suggesting that Ohio’s Senator Rob Portman would be a huge asset in the Buckeye state, where Romney seems to be getting trounced. Medicare was a huge advantage for Republicans in 2010 and suddenly — thanks to Ryan’s signature budget that majorly revamps the program — the president is more trusted to preserve the program in swing states.
And what has Ryan added to the ticket?
Perhaps he’s prevented a complete revolt by the right-wing base when Romney does things like praising his health care plan, which inspired Obamacare? But if Romney is still worried about his base, he might as well save his anonymous donors a few million and pack it in.
Putting Paul Ryan on the ticket was just one of Mitt Romney’s terrible mistakes. But this mistake may be the best thing that has happened to our broken political process in years.
Let me explain.
From the moment Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running mate, the congressman has been running from specifics of his famed Ryan Budgets, which had made him the darling of the conservative movement. This was to be expected… and a bit ironic, as Romney had adopted nearly all of Ryan’s ideas when his campaign was crumbling in the primary.
Ryan’s downfall began when his harmless fib about his marathon time was closely followed by a widely panned convention speech where his disregard for the truth came off as deliberate and invidious. This immediately cut into his image as someone who told “hard truths.” Instead he used half-truths and flat-out lies in order to make an unprincipled case against the president.
Was Ryan really arguing that the president hadn’t intervened in the private sector enough to keep one GM plant open, though he’d saved hundreds? No, the veep hopeful was trying to score cheap points.
But it wasn’t until he went to speak to the members of AARP that Paul Ryan’s true weakness as a national candidate was exposed. Though he’d announced his own mother was in attendance, the older Americans in the audience booed him as he presented his plan for Medicare.
This savvy – and likely quite liberal — audience knew that despite Ryan’s claims that his Medicare plan was bipartisan, only one Democrat in the Senate had endorsed it, and only after he radically revised his original plan.
Medicare is one of the most popular programs our government has ever created. It’s also the most efficient health care system in this country — costs grow below the rate of private insurers despite insuring elderly Americans. With his plan, Ryan makes promises to people 55 and over he can’t keep, since the untested changes he proposes could threaten the very existence of the program.
The congressman does this while cutting the crucial Medicaid funding needy seniors rely on for nursing homes and help with co-pays now. And he does this all to pay for slashing taxes for those who don’t need more tax breaks.
Even before Mitt Romney selected Ryan, Democracy Corps was finding that his budget could be a huge drag on Republicans across the country. But that was just a theory. Now that Ryan’s on the ticket, we’re going to get to see directly how Paul Ryan’s ideas do on a national scale.
If Romney and Ryan are roundly rejected, the notions of turning Medicare into a voucher system and gutting a trillion dollars from Medicaid to pay for more tax breaks should go down with them. Even more importantly, Ryan — who was one of the key figures in the House Republicans’ stand on the debt limit and rejecting President Obama’s “grand bargain” — will have been defeated by the president himself.
No one expects Republicans to then completely bend over for the president. But their leverage will be minimal to non-existent as we approach the so-called fiscal cliff.
When Romney selected Ryan, the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein and others pointed out that it was President Obama and his team who elevated the conservative darling to a national platform. Having run against no one in particular in 2010, they knew that Ryan’s budgets made him the perfect foil.
Some feared that doing that could turn 2012 into a mandate that validated Ryan’s extreme revamping of our safety net. That’s still possible.
What looks increasingly more likely is that Ryan’s vision for America, which Mitt Romney was forced to adopt, will be soundly rejected. And Republicans will be forced to negotiate with the president knowing the best they had to offer just wasn’t good enough.