Mayan campaign mashup 2012: All hail the king!

11 08 2012

Update in the middle and below

So it’s Paul Ryan, 7-term member of Congress, chair of the House Budget Committee, author of budget plan written in fairy dust, and former prom king.

Huh.

I got nothin’.

Is it a good pick? Bad? Bold? Foolish? I tend to be among those who thinks the veep pick won’t do much to help, although—as the pick of La Palin (or, further back, Thomas Eagleton) demonstrated—can hurt. Ryan is clearly more qualified than the former guv (of Alaska, people, of Alaska!) and is comfortable with the national attention, so he’s unlikely to do Romney any damage. He’s good-looking, which can’t hurt, and young, which is probably good.

After skimming a few pundit commentaries (rubbish), I think I’ll stick with the political scientists. Jonathan Bernstein, who writes a plain blog about politics, put up a late-night/early-morning post at WaPo on Ryan that should be read by everyone who comments on the veepstakes:

Now, beyond that, three points. First, I would downplay to some extent the idea that picking Ryan will establish the “narrative” of the rest of the campaign in any particular way. For the last few months, the veepstakes have been the biggest game in town; if Ryan does reasonably well, he’ll tend to disappear after the convention. That’s what running mates do. . . .

Second, Ryan will almost certainly be seen over the next week or three to have “energized” the party. That, too, is almost certainly overstated. Most of that “energizing” effect is structural, and would have happened regardless as long as Romney chose a “solid conservative”.

Third, I don’t think it will doom the campaign or anything like that, but it is worth noting that this is a shockingly inexperienced ticket, especially when it comes to national security and foreign policy. . . . The only ticket I can think of that was similarly lacking in foreign policy credentials would be Carter-Mondale in 1976, but at least both of them had military service in their backgrounds.

The bottom line about virtually all vice-presidential picks is that they seem far more important to the campaign when they’re made than they turn out to be. That’s probably true for this one, too. But if it does end up having a significant effect in November, it’s almost certainly going to be on the downside, and that’s more likely with Ryan than it would have been with most of the other reported finalists.

As an Obama supporter, I hope he’s right about the downside effect, but whether Ryan is an asset or a drag will depend on how he performs, how Romney makes use of or buries his budget ideas, and how the Obama/Biden campaign responds to the blue-eyed cheddarhead.

(Now, I was going to toss in some wisdom from the folks at The Monkey Cage, but I’m having a devil of a time getting in; I hope this means that journalists are overloading their circuits trying to get some real information—but that may be too much to hope for. I’ll try again later and plug ’em in then.)

*UPDATE* Okay, Larry Bartels at TMC has a post up; unlike Bernstein, he focuses less on the tactical than on the policy implications of choosing a man who

has spent much of his career warning America of “a crushing burden of debt” that “will soon eclipse our economy and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead.” . . .

YouGov asked 1000 prospective voters “how the outcome of this fall’s presidential election will affect America over the next four years. Regardless of which candidate you personally support, what effect do you think the election outcome will have on the federal budget deficit?” The response options were “much higher if Obama is reelected” (selected by 35% of the sample), “somewhat higher if Obama is reelected” (11%), “no difference” (36%), “somewhat higher if Romney is elected” (5%), and “much higher if Romney is elected” (12%).

The distribution of responses to this question is a testament to the political effectiveness of Republicans like Ryan and Tea Party activists, who have been loudly bewailing the escalation of the federal debt since Barack Obama became president. Democrats’ counterargument that recent outsized budget deficits reflect fallout from the 2008 Wall Street meltdown, the Bush tax cuts, and the Iraq War seems to have been much less persuasive. Nor have they made much headway, at least so far, in convincing the public that the Republican budget plan authored by Ryan and endorsed by Romney would actually exacerbate the deficit by slashing the taxes of top income earners.

Despite the question wording encouraging respondents to put aside their own candidate preferences, expectations regarding future budget deficits are strongly skewed by partisan predispositions (as measured in a “baseline” survey of the same respondents in late 2011). Most Democrats think deficits will be larger if Romney is elected, while most Republicans (and independents) expect bigger deficits under Obama. As is often the case with politically charged beliefs, this partisan gap is especially large among people who are especially knowledgeable about politics.

Bartels goes on to discuss the poll results in some detail, leaving off anything more about the choice of Ryan. He does note at the top that expectations about the debt and deficit mattered a great deal to prospective voters, but the evidence for that is unclear.

Ah, and while I was writing up the Bartels post, here comes John Sides and Lynn Vavreck with a post on the polling of the pick. Most haven’t heard about him, and of those who have, most don’t know exactly who he is.

And what do the people who know Ryan think of him?  In these surveys, about 28% reported having a favorable view and 29% reported having a unfavorable view.  Those who had strongly unfavorable views outnumbered those with strongly favorable views—suggesting that unfavorable opinions are more intensely held at this point in time.  These ratings are affected by party, of course: on average about 54% of Republicans have a favorable impression of Ryan compared to only 10% of Democrats.

What about independents and undecided voters? Their opinions tend to be unfavorable.  About 26% of independents have an unfavorable impression of Ryan, while 21% of independents have a favorable impression.  A majority (52%) of independents did not have any impression of Ryan.

Among undecided voters, the same things holds: 57% had no opinion, but unfavorable opinions tended to outnumber favorable opinions (25% vs. 18%).

The upshot, as sides and Vavrek observe, is that his relative obscurity gives him a chance to introduce himself on his own terms, although the

tendency [toward a negative view] among independents and undecided voters is potentially troubling for the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Can Ryan change the impressions of those who have them?  Probably not.  Can he shape the impressions of those who don’t have them, and shape them in a favorable way?  That’s the big question.

Even if Ryan is great, he’ll hardly be the main factor in the election: the economy, gas prices, job numbers, the Eurozone, and those pesky unknown unknowns (especially on the foreign affairs field) and how they are handled by the candidates at the top of the ticket matter much more than Ryan.

Romney is, after all, the one “running for president, for pete’s sake”.

~~~

Okay, further updates down here.

Update2: I mentioned skimming rubbish punditry earlier, but I do want to highlight James Fallows’s take, not least because Fallows is never rubbish.

He focuses on the substance—or, I should say, the lack thereof—of the Ryan Budget plan, and provides some good links to boot.

I think the choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate is a good one for the country. It makes the race “about” something, beyond just being a negative referendum on how the economy is going under Obama. And the Republican vision and program, if Romney and Ryan should win, immediately becomes something more specific than “the opposite of Obama’s.” This is how we think elections are supposed to work, and Romney’s decision will make plan-vs.-plan, vision-vs.-vision comparisons more likely — as opposed strictly to gaffe-vs.-gaffe. For those reasons, good choice, congratulations to Romney and Ryan, and let the real campaign begin.

One request: I hope that when reporters are writing or talking about Paul Ryan’s budget plans and his overall approach, they will rig up some electro-shock device to zap themselves each time they say that Ryan and his thoughts are unusually “serious” or “brave.” Clear-edged they are, and useful in defining the issues in the campaign. But they have no edge in “seriousness” over, say, proposals from Ryan’s VP counterpart Joe Biden.

How much substance (or the lack thereof. . .) matters in a presidential campaign is debatable, but yes, it would be nice if those writing about a policy would actually look at that policy.

Update3: Oh, god, I just realized: This pick means we’ll be hearing more about/from Bill Kristol, the hackiest of hacks and a man who is wrong about everything. He promoted Ryan in various media, which means (sigh) that he promoted himself as well.

Romney almost certainly—or, at least, I fervently hope—paid no attention to Kristol in deciding on Ryan, but do you think that will stop Kristol from trumpeting his powers of prognostication or other pundits from applauding his pull?

Ye gads.

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3 responses

11 08 2012
dmf

11 08 2012
BJ

My reaction; if they do win (I hope not I hope not I hope not) the only positive is he’ll be out of my state.

It’s embarrassing that my good blue state is producing all the nationally recognized republicans. Kohl, Feingold, Nelson for god sake…Shalala even (we borrowed her but she was here). We need to rally the troops and take our state back, then send some national poli’s who can actually help the lemmings that are voting for the right!

Speech over. Back tot he cheese curds.

12 08 2012

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