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Is Romney-​​Ryan ticket a game-​​changer?

Pre­sump­tive Repub­lican pres­i­den­tial nom­inee Mitt Romney selected Wis­consin Con­gressman Paul Ryan as his run­ning mate on Sat­urday, ending months of spec­u­la­tion over who the former Mass­a­chu­setts gov­ernor would choose. We asked William Crotty, North­eastern polit­ical sci­ence pro­fessor and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Public Life, to ana­lyze what the selec­tion of Ryan means for Romney’s cam­paign and the pres­i­den­tial race.

What is your overall assessment of Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate? What are his greatest assets that he brings to the Romney ticket?

Paul Ryan is a great choice for the Repub­lican ticket. He brings bal­ance and con­gres­sional exper­tise as head of the House Budget Com­mittee and is an artic­u­late spokesperson for restraint and new Republican-​​style approaches to cut­ting expen­di­tures. He is a young, effec­tive speaker who brings a sense of grav­itas to pol­i­tics. Given some of the other choices avail­able, Romney could had tried to juice up the ticket with a more com­bative, out­spoken and forceful can­di­date, which describes some of those report­edly under con­sid­er­a­tion. That strategy would have appealed to the core Repub­lican base (as Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ryan does anyway) but would not have been as strong an addi­tion to the Romney cam­paign. As a polit­ical strate­gist, I would say he could not have done better.

Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has been a staunch supporter of overhauling federal entitlement programs such as Medicare. How does his selection as Romney’s vice presidential nominee shape the debate over the budget between now and election day?

The selec­tion of Con­gressman Ryan should clearly focus the debate on the major issues facing the country. This is repet­i­tive, but they are the economy, tax struc­ture and reduced social spending. Ryan has already put forth a bud­getary pro­gram. The Repub­li­cans love it and it does advance their inter­ests. The Democ­rats, for their part, say they are appalled. But they have not effec­tively answered it or come up with an agreed-​​upon alter­na­tive pro­gram of their own. The advan­tage here is to the Repub­li­cans. Ryan is going to attack Medicare and pro­pose bloc grants — a very dif­ferent pro­gram from the present one. The Democ­rats are going to have to develop a far more effec­tive coun­ter­at­tack or set of alter­na­tives than they have to date. So far it’s been a cam­paign devoid of serious dis­cus­sion of issues. What­ever your polit­ical beliefs may be, they should be addressed by one side or the other in the next sev­eral months.

What does Romney’s selection of Ryan tell us about the way in which he makes political decisions?

It was a rea­soned, delib­erate process. Romney and his camp care­fully con­trolled the infor­ma­tion. They made a judg­ment as to the major issues that will affect the cam­paign and brought in some­body younger, artic­u­late and seem­ingly knowl­edge­able in the area (Democ­rats might ques­tion this) who has pro­duced fun­da­mental Repub­lican party posi­tions on the economy, taxes, enti­tle­ments and the role of gov­ern­ment in rela­tion to these. It is rem­i­nis­cent of 2008 when Barack Obama picked an expert, well respected leg­is­lator in Joe Biden to fill out his ticket. It con­trasts markedly with the McCain camp’s choice of a poorly vetted, unknown first-​​term gov­ernor from Alaska, Sarah Palin. The selec­tion went against John McCain’s unfilled pref­er­ence of  Joe Lieberman, who had trav­elled with the McCain cam­paign and was well known, and what­ever her appeal Sarah Palin was a dis­aster. The decision-​​making process is promising as a model for those to come should he be elected president.

– by Greg St. Martin

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