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Will Mitt Romney’s “bold choice” to pick Paul Ryan as his running mate be a true game-changer for the Republican campaign? According to a new USAT/Gallup poll, the answer appears to be no. While Ryan may have conservatives — especially Tea Partiers — over the moon, the general public does not share this enthusiasm.

42 percent of the 1,006 adults surveyed said they viewed Ryan as a “fair” or “poor” choice, compared to just 39 percent who said he was an “excellent” or “pretty good” choice. This makes Romney’s decision to tap Ryan the least popular vice presidential pick since George H.W. Bush selected Dan Quayle in 1988.

Just 17 percent say that adding Ryan to the ticket makes them more likely to vote for Romney — about the same bump that Sarah Palin provided for McCain. Furthermore, only 48 percent believe that Ryan would be qualified to serve as president should Romney be unable to, while 29 percent do not and 23 percent are undecided. Only Quayle and Sarah Palin received a lower rate of confidence.

In defense of these numbers, Romney campaign pollster Neil Newhouse blamed the low marks on Ryan not being a nationwide household name. He told USA Today that “All these numbers indicate is the simple fact that Congressman Paul Ryan was not a nationally known figure prior to being named as Gov. Romney’s vice-presidential pick.”

In fairness, Newhouse’s assertion is not just spin; as The Washington Post points out, Ryan is virtually unknown in the critical swing state of Florida. With that in mind, the onslaught of negative headlines that greeted Romney and Ryan in Florida newspapers this morning should be especially troubling to the campaign. The Romney campaign must race to define Ryan’s legislative record — otherwise, the Obama campaign will do it for them.

Table via The Huffington Post

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