Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan Can Win the Whiteboard Generation

The Republican ticket has already demonstrated their campaign power when they appear together.

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The crowd cheers Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan R-Wis., at a campaign event at the Waukesha county expo center, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012 in Waukesha, Wis.

Good news. The Boston Globe is reporting that presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his VP pick Rep. Paul Ryan will be making an unexpected joint appearance on Monday at a town hall meeting New Hampshire. It's welcome news because both Romney and Ryan campaign better when they are together, and the big crowds and through-the-roof donations they attracted last weekend are proof of that. If the Romney campaign were smart, they'd schedule a lot more of these impromptu joint appearances as the week heading into the convention unfolds. 

This news comes a day after the national press was guffawing over Romney's use of a whiteboard—he used his hand as an eraser, one reporter pointed out. Thank God he didn't do a power point, said another, rolling his eyes. Dry-erase marker in hand, Romney listed how he and Ryan's plan would save Medicare by offering future retirees the choice between Medicare and private insurance a decade from now. On the other side, he showed President Barack Obama's financing of the Affordable Care Act by cutting $700 billion from Medicare benefits for current seniors. As the president himself is fond of saying, the choice couldn't be clearer: robbing current seniors to pay for an unpopular program versus long-term entitlement restructuring that doesn't affect current retirees at all.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

We haven't seen a whiteboard since NBC News's Tim Russert used one in the 2000 election to help illustrate how complicated the electoral vote could be. People loved that whiteboard because it was simple and easy to understand. People still love whiteboards: These days, little kids still use whiteboards instead of chalkboards in classrooms; high schoolers use the electronic version, called smartboards.

What all the media mocking doesn't take into account is that people are ready for some simplicity. They want solutions. They're tired of all the fighting. And as I've written many times over the last few years, the American electorate is extraordinarily engaged. 

[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

That's due in large part to people's concern over the economy and the national debt, and whether there will be any money left for a safety net for the next generation. They want to understand what the options are, and specifically how we can reform the system to keep it solvent before it's too late. They're not getting that from Obama.

Exhibit A: Courtesy of the White House pool report on Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Virginia, the same day as the Republicans-want-to-keep-you-in-chains comment. After a voter asked about Social Security, Biden said: "Hey, by the way, let's talk about Social Security. Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you." No wonder the White House has stopped issuing transcripts of Biden's events. Even the Washington Post editorial board found itself "disheartened by his pandering comment," given that unless changes are made, Social Security will be bankrupt by 2033. That's when voters like me, who are in our 40s, will be retiring.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

The more Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan can talk in reasonable, common-sense terms about getting entitlements back on solid ground while ensuring that our private sector economy grows at a faster pace than our government does, the better. If they want to use whiteboards to do it, that's fine. This week, pollster John Zogby reported that his post-Ryan polling shows that Romney is picking up 41 percent of the 18-29 year old vote for the first time. Zogby's numbers show just 49 percent of young voters support Obama, down from 66 percent in 2008—a 17 point drop. The youth vote is very much in play right now. By the way, Zogby calls younger voters CENGAs—college educated, not going anywhere.

Those well-educated, unemployed younger voters are looking for a common-sense, reform-minded discussion about building a stronger economy and a smaller, more efficient government. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan should talk to them—together. The whiteboard generation is not stupid.

  • Read Chad Stone: Paul Ryan’s Radical Budget Vision
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