Note: The below post is a lightly edited version of my post at Politico Arena. Please note that future posts will discuss the Ryan budget in some detail. In the meantime, I recommend this set of resources on the Ryan budget and this compilation of short summaries on different aspects of the plan.
This vice presidential pick will turn attention away from Romney’s tax returns and Bain experiences, but only for a short time. Rather soon the Obama campaign will neatly incorporate the Ryan plan into its larger narrative involving Romney’s focus on redistributing wealth from the middle class upward.
Choosing Paul Ryan clarifies the choice in this race. His plan would bring the federal government to a level it had in 1950 – before Medicare, Medicaid, the interstate highway system, environmental regulation, student loans, and research and development.
Those programs, which would be eliminated or vastly cut back, are popular. Meanwhile, his tax cuts benefit the wealthy while the middle class would lose deductions like those for college tuition and mortgage interest.
And, while Ryan is characterized as pursuing deficit reduction, his plan wouldn’t balance the budget for decades. Newt Gingrich called it, “right wing social engineering.”
By picking Ryan, Romney shows that he had yet to mollify conservatives and gain their trust.
Instead of picking Marco Rubio who would help Romney appeal to Hispanics nationally and aid him in carrying Florida, Romney picked a running mate whose Medicare ideas – raising the eligibility age to 67 and turning the program into vouchers that are worth less over time – will hurt him everywhere, but particularly in states that skew old.
Romney may believe that Ryan will appeal to independents who care about the deficit, but if they learn the details of the Ryan plan – something the Obama campaign will be happy to tell them about – the appeal will be rather limited.
In the short term, this changes the subject and should give Romney a bounce. In the long term, it’s not helpful to his campaign.
One more thing: In this web ad, the Obama campaign has already neatly tied Ryan into its broader narrative about the choice between the presidential candidates.
Look for this to show up in broadcast advertising.