Is Paul Ryan an asset for Mitt Romney or…?

It is a Romney-Ryan ticket.

Questions:

Why Paul Ryan? Would you say he will be a real asset for Romney, but also a  problem, and why?

Answers:

David McCuan, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Sonoma State University

What’s the impact of Ryan’s entry into the race as the Romney VP pick?  Little more than Beltway Parlor talk I’m afraid….this pick is a clear “re-set” to the politics of the 2012 presidential campaign, but is it really anything more than that?

Here’s why it is a re-set…but does the pick make sense given the dynamics of the 2012 election?  Does the Ryan pick provide more questions than answers about this election?

We know, based on the POLS research, that VP picks don’t matter…supposedly, but this pick does tell us something…I remain suspicious of that POLS research..mostly because what we miss may not be quantifiable and direct….

Despite being a Political Scientist and our professional research, I think the Romney people, while clearly afraid of the GOP base, have fundamentally mis-read this race…if it is close in November and they lose, this pick DOES matter…

If suburban women are the KEY demographic AND the 12-14 million NEW Hispanic voters also matter in key areas/exurbs/districts/states, how does Ryan help?  He scares the crap out of these folks on entitlements and entitlement reform, on Social Security, and immigration.  Heck, he wants to dismantle Medicare.  How does Romney win Florida with a guy who wants to dismantle that program?

Ryan could, potentially, help on the narrative about small business/entrepreneurship/American Dream stuff for Hispanics, but his rhetoric on other issues like immigration doesn’t help.  On women’s issues, he’s a threat…so, how does his being on the ticket help?

The Romney ticket is a one-trick pony – management of the fiscal playing field in this country.  Do budgets and budget battles win elections?  That seems like a stretch to me.  While we know budgets matter, they matter in Congress and in a policy sense.  Do they elect Presidents?  I remain suspicious of that as a base of setting one’s campaign priorities.

How does Ryan help with terrorism?  With Putin?  With China?  With the balance of payments?  Can Ryan engage the UK, Poland, Israel, let alone our allies and friends in Central Europe, Syria, North Africa, and go toe-to-toe with leaders of those countries on issues of a serious nature?  What we do with Iran?  What does he say to re-set relations with North Korea?  How does he deal with the loss of manufacturing jobs?  Doesn’t Ryan energize union voters in WI?  The Democratic base in OH?  BIG questions here…

Doesn’t this ticket energize the FL electorate of A) Aged voters?; and B). Emerging voters against Romney-Ryan?

And, finally, does Ryan add value?  If so, where?  On the ground in this sense, where does he bring in votes?  In a thematic sense, he adds value…in a GET VOTES sense, where are those votes that he adds?

Ryan’s entry CLEARLY re-sets the race, but to what end?  I see a fundamental miscalculation by Romney’s folks…just like in 2008…

Romney introduced Ryan as a devoted Catholic and did not walk away from social issues that can be damaging for the GOP among Independent voters this time out.  If Romney had announced last week they would have done it at a Chick-Fil-A restaurant instead of a warship.  There will be a lot of dog-whistle type things like this and the line about welfare reform last week which was designed to remind people Obama’s the black/food stamp President.

I, for one, am trying to figure out where the Romney campaign goes with this announcement. Florida has to be at least a little tougher today than yesterday.  Don’t see how it helps secure a Western strategy of Colorado and New Mexico.  That leaves the rust belt/upper midwest.  Does Ryan help with Wisconsin or Minnesota?  Is that really enough, plus the GOP / Red states to win the presidency?  How so?

We have seen that President Obama’s standing in this election has improved markedly over the past month.  If economic data comes in fairly strong this month (which it might), it might be tougher for Romney to catch him.  Nevertheless, Obama is vulnerable, and his lack of fortitude to not only stimulate the economy earlier in his term (and also to sustain the recovery), should have cost him his job.

John Pitney, Professor of American Politics, Claremont McKenna College

Ryan speaks with great knowledge on a range of issues. In particular, he knows the budget better than anyone else on Capitol Hill. As a young Catholic from the Midwest, he provides some balance to an older Mormon from the Northeast.

There is serious risk, however. Ryan has been very specific in his proposals for reforming Medicare and other programs. Democrats are already attacking those proposals. They will claim that the Republicans want to wage war on the poor and elderly.

He has no executive or military experience. Then again, neither did Obama or Biden in 2008, and it didn’t hurt them a bit. He has no specific background in foreign policy, but that should not be a political drawback, either. He is extremely intelligent and has been voting on foreign policy issues during his 14 years in Congress. He won’t make the kind of errors that hurt Sarah Palin four years ago. In any case, only about one percent of Americans cite foreign policy as the top issue in the campaign .

Steven Greene, Associate Professor of Political Science, North Carolina State University

Really interesting choice. This is clearly a bolder, riskier choice than we might expect from Romney, whom all agree is a very cautious politician by nature. This suggests to many experts, myself included, that Romney sees his campaign at a strategic disadvantage and that he needs to make a fairly dramatic move to shake-up the current dynamics of the race.

Ryan has many advantages. Most importantly for Romney, he is beloved by the conservative base, and this really helps shore up Romney with this key part of the Republican party that has never really completely trusted him. This pick does suggest that Romney felt he still had not done enough to convince and energize conservative support. Ryan is a skilled, able, smart politician with a lot of respect from journalists. He has typically received quite favorable coverage as being one of the few Republican leaders who is a real expert on policy.

On the downside, Ryan has been very specific about very conservative policies. Romney has tried to be vague and avoid specifics, but now Romney is very clearly tied to Ryan’s very conservative and quite unpopular policy proposals. It now seems clear that rather than this election being a referendum on Obama’s performance (which would seem to favor Romney given the state of the economy) the election becomes a choice about two dramatically different visions for America’s future. Republicans obviously think they can win this debate– but what I know of polling and the American electorate that’s an uphill struggle.

At this point, it’s hard to truly say whether Ryan will be a net positive or net negative. He’s a skilled politician, but untested on the national stage. We’ll have to see how media coverage of the campaign unfolds and the degree to which Ryan’s policy proposals become controversial and/or a drag on the campaign. Despite all the attention, though, I do find it unlikely that this selection is very likely to actually change the outcome of the presidential election, whatever that will be.

Mark Rozell, Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University

Ryan seems an unusual choice given that he is a Capitol Hill insider and there is enormous disdain for Washington politics and especially Congress these days.

Nonetheless, he brings certain real assets. Ryan hails from Wisconsin, potentially a very important state for Romney’s chances in November. Working class Catholic voters are an important potential swing bloc of voters this year and Ryan has some genuine appeal among that segment of the electorate.

One interesting thing to watch: what will be the reaction among conservative evangelical Protestants to a Mormon-Catholic ticket?

Eric Ostermeier, Research Associate, Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, University of Minnesota

The benefits for choosing Paul Ryan is that he is a very experienced, bright politician who is unlikely to make serious mistakes on the campaign trail. Mitt Romney will try to make this campaign about the failures of Barack Obama, not necessarily about the strengths of his own candidacy, so as long as Romney and Ryan do not make big errors during their campaign, they believe they have a strong chance to win.

The problem with choosing Ryan is that it does not fix the “gender gap” problem that Romney faces. Had he chosen candidates like New Hampshire U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte or former Secretary of State Condi Rice, his campaign would have been more attractive to ideologically moderate and politically independent women voters.

Allan Louden, Professor of Communication, Wake Forest University

The selection of a member of the House of Representatives is a very rare in modern day VP selection. The more typical pick is a former State Governor or sitting US Senator.

The selection of Paul Ryan will galvanize the election into what is both an advantage and danger for Gov. Romney. It squarely cements the election on the Role of Government. The choice between a more libertarian “less government” and a European style “welfare state” will be contrasted, each aimed at reviving the economy. Fundamentally voters mistrust government and want it out of their lives (but won’t give up current programs).

Advantage Romney, “It’s the economy stupid” as with Bill Clinton’s campaign mantra. Most of the flack that surrounds a campaign will be take a back seat to the more fundamental Romney message on jobs and economic growth. Without winning that arena Romney cannot prevail. (Ryan is articulate, will energize the GOP base, and add more of a human element to the staid Romney style).

Disadvantage Romney, he will be defending cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and the expectations of entitlement programs in problematic states like Florida and Virginia, each with large retirement populations. If voters vote their fears of losing government assistance the election will stay with Obama’s vision of a legitimate government role. And it is easier to run an ad that Social Security is destroyed than to make the case for reforming fiscal responsibility.

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