By Robert Schlesinger |
Overall, Mitt Romney made a good decision adding Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to the ticket. Ryan is a young, ambitious, athletic beltway insider with a camera-ready presence. But it is becoming rapidly clear that this running mate will give Romney as many joys as headaches. Ryan will energize the base, but also give President Barack Obama his biggest opening for attack since Romney became the presumptive nominee back in April.
One of the biggest challenges Romney faced during the GOP primaries was that he wasn't winning over rural voters. Romney has won the cities, but it's reasonable to assume that on November 6 these areas will go blue. Urban voters are simply more likely to vote for the president because he understands them better.
Conventional wisdom assumes Romney won't have much of a problem with rural Republicans because they'll vote red regardless. But this wisdom is wrong; turnout data gleaned from the primaries paints a different story.
Republicans are much less enthusiastic about this election: 1.5 million fewer Republicans voted in the primaries. And this shouldn't have been the case because we had a very competitive GOP field, with lots of press attention focused on each contest. Ryan improves Romney's fortunes with rural voters.
However, Romney won't see the same affection from undecided voters. They typically follow politics only during presidential elections. Most don't recognize Ryan. They're going to be vulnerable to the president's message that Ryan is an extreme Republican who doesn't understand them. Ryan's stance on Medicare reform is particularly problematic and is now Mitt Romney's biggest liability.
I must preface all this with the fact No. 2's don't win elections. As I've argued in earlier posts, historically, they add or subtract about 1 percent of votes from the final tally. Unless this turns out to be an incredibly close election, which none of the polls is indicating so far, Mitt Romney's victory hinges on how well he can connect with voters personally and how well he demonstrates why he's the best man to improve the economy. Not whether or not we end up seeing pictures of Paul Ryan's abs.
About Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist and Political Analyst
Jamal Simmons Principal at The Raben Group