A bold choice is not always the best choice. Not all risks come with rewards. The Trojans made a bold choice to pull that wooden horse into Troy. Coca-Cola made a bold choice to offer New Coke. And Mitt Romney made a bold, risky choice in putting Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan on the ticket.
Romney’s choice of Ryan could cement Barack Obama’s lead in the presidential race, but the real danger for Republicans is that Ryan’s presence on the ticket will lose them the House. Paul Ryan is to 2012 voters as Nancy Pelosi was to 2010. Republicans, welcome to a nightmare of your own making.
Bad reviews have started trickling in. A USA Today/Gallup poll showed voters rank Ryan below Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney as potential buckets of warm spit, outranking only Dan Quayle. And Republicans who know about winning elections see the Ryan pick as a loser.
“I think it’s a very bold choice. And an exciting and interesting pick. It’s going to elevate the campaign into a debate over big ideas. It means Romney-Ryan can run on principles and provide some real direction and vision for the Republican Party. And probably lose. Maybe big,” said former Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon. (Full disclosure: I worked for McKinnon for three months in 1995, but I was young and needed the money. The news clips I brought him in the morning were very tastefully done.)
But barring a hostage crisis, economic calamity or other game-changing event, the die is cast in the Obama-Romney contest. Where Ryan will have his biggest effect is down the ballot where Republican congressional candidates are already distancing themselves from his plan to hand power in Medicare from senior citizens to the insurance companies.
In 2010, Republicans won just by showing up—unless they supported the Ryan plan. One of my congressional clients barely won re-election against a challenger dubbed one of “the most corrupt and unethical candidates vying for federal office in 2010” by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Did we attack him on corruption? Wasting taxpayer dollars? Nope. The Republican candidate lost because he tweeted that Paul “Ryan was THE man with THE plan!” Even that murky endorsement was enough.
“It was so great in 2010 one campaign asked me to follow the candidate around with a camera shouting about Paul Ryan,” said Democratic opposition researcher Will Caskey.
Now we face an electorate fed up with an unproductive, hyper-partisan Republican Congress. With the Ryan plan suddenly in play in every single district thanks to Romney, Democratic consultants I talk to can’t believe their luck.
“Regardless of whether we’re polling in a swing district, a lean-Republican district, a lean-Democratic district, attaching the Republican candidate to the Ryan’s plan impact on Medicare and seniors is almost always in the top tier of the most potent messages,” said Zac McCrary, vice president of Anzalone Liszt Research.
Republican incumbents will have to distance themselves from the ticket, but that would go a lot better if every single Republican Member of Congress hadn’t voted in April 2011 for a version of the Ryan plan that makes Greek austerity look like a ride at Disneyland. A CNN poll taken shortly after the vote showed that 58 percent of Americans opposed “the Republicans’ plan to change Medicare.” And a recent Democracy Corps poll found that at least 59% of likely voters opposed other elements of the Ryan plan that would pay for tax cuts for the rich by raising taxes on the poor and middle class, allowing the child tax credit to expire, and cutting education spending.
To win this argument, Democrats don’t need to accuse Republicans of wanting to save the Medicare village by burning it down. We don’t need to be clever and say Paul Ryan would force your grandma to clip coupons to get healthcare. All Democrats need to do to win this argument is to have it.
From the front lines of the elections that will decide who controls Congress, picking Private Ryan looks like a phenomenal mistake. By marrying the Republican presidential nominee to an unpopular Republican congress, Paul Ryan has turned the Republican ticket into a suicide pact.
© Copyright 2012 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen Members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @jasstanford.