Posts Tagged ‘VP Selection’

Confessions of an Electorate: When VP Picks Matter

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

When VP Picks Matter

In 1980, Ronald Reagan selected George H.W. Bush as his running mate.  The electorate yawned.  In 1988, George H.W. Bush selected Dan Quayle as his running mate.  Again, the electorate was unmoved.  In 2000, when George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney as his running mate, there was some discussion about the importance of Cheney, but most shrugged and went on.  In 1996, and again in 2008, but also now in 2012, everybody was really excited about the running mate selections.  In 1996, Bob Dole’s pick of Jack Kemp was going to rescue the Kansas Senator’s campaign.  In 2008, John McCain wisely chose a woman who had the ability to move the base, though his own staff seemed to sabotage him.  This bit of historical truth should be considered carefully as the Republican party faithful prepare to descend on Tampa for their Presidential nominating convention.  In 2012, Mitt Romney has chosen Paul Ryan in an attempt to ignite the base, but I’d like you to consider the nature of the picks and their relative importance to their respective campaigns, and what they confess to the electorate about their candidates:  Only when the party’s nominee is a weak candidate does the Vice Presidential pick matter much at all.

The elder Bush could have won having picked Mickey Mouse when running against Michael Dukakis in 1988, and Ronald Reagan could have picked Caspar Milquetoast in 1980(and in fact, some say he did.)  The salient point to take away from the excitement about the Vice Presidential pick by Mitt Romney isn’t that he chose Paul Ryan, so much as it is the fact that it matters who he picked.  Think about it:  Vice Presidential picks only matter when the Presidential candidate is desperately weak.  It’s why Biden doesn’t matter.  What this entire episode should tell you is what most conservatives will have known already:  Just as in 2008, we have a weak presidential candidate, and the importance of the Vice Presidential pick has grown only by way of compensation.

Consider the pressure brought to bear on Sarah Palin in 2008.  She had the unenviable chore of trying to excite a base that was mostly disgusted with John McCain.  The truth of the matter is that without Gov. Palin on the ticket, McCain would have lost by larger margins.  His own campaign’s staff, primarily Steve Schmidt, concocted a notion to suspend the campaign to deal with the financial crisis.  This action sank McCain, but Palin, being the fighter and champion of all things America refused to yield and almost rescued McCain from his own staff.  Almost.  The problem is that Sarah Palin shouldn’t have mattered so much.  The only reason she did is because McCain himself was such a terrible candidate.  There will be those who become angered with me for stating it this bluntly, but if Sarah Palin mattered so much, it meant also that McCain himself mattered too little.

Observe the hysteria of Saturday morning after it went out via the Romney-app that Paul Ryan would be the pick.  Consider that there had been such an application for smart-phones at all.  What does this tell you about the relative importance of the Romney VP pick?  It was crucial.  It’s Romney’s last big push to bring resistant conservatives along, and this matters.  It doesn’t matter, however, because it’s a good choice or bad choice, but only because the fact that it matters at all reflects the weakness of the top of the ticket.  I would ask my conservative and Republican friends, preparing to head to Tampa, Florida in body or spirit for the RNC convention:  If the VP pick matters this much, isn’t there still time to pick a new ticket?  The truth is that there is time, but the problem is that few will think outside of the box Romney has constructed for them.  Most will accept this Vice Presidential pick with unthinking adulation, but we conservatives really must elevate our game if we are going to rescue the country.

The importance of the VP selection in some elections signifies a sort of confession, not only by the campaign, but also by the electorate, about their general assessment of the candidate in question.  Mitt Romney’s VP pick matters only because there are so many lingering, long-held doubts about Romney himself.  The same was true of McCain in 2008, and we shouldn’t expect a different result.  When you consider the Republican presidential nominees of the last thirty-two years, the only time a Vice Presidential pick mattered to any great degree had been instances when the party’s nominee was desperately weak vis-à-vis the competition.  In each of those cases, Republicans lost the election.  In 2000, when Cheney had mattered more than a little, and Lieberman had mattered also, it was predictable that we would see a campaign fought out between two inferior candidates, with the victor being the candidate whose VP pick mattered least.  Advantage Bush.

This should give conservatives and Republicans a moment of pause.  History’s formula is clear:  If the VP pick matters, it is only because the Presidential nominee is weak, and weak nominees generally beget defeat.  Jack Kemp was a great guy, and Sarah Palin really is a phenomenon, and Paul Ryan seems to be a decent politician, so this isn’t really about them, as the bottom of their respective tickets.  It’s about the top of the ticket, and the problem is the same in all three cases.  When there comes to be this much focus on who the Vice Presidential candidate will be, it is as good as a confession by the campaign and also by the electorate on the weakness of the top of the ticket.  Republicans may go to Tampa with their heads in the clouds if they like, buoyed by the selection of Paul Ryan, but if you’re serious about winning, you’ll take the time to confess at least to yourself what all of this chatter of the importance of the VP pick really means.  It isn’t good.

 

Poor Paul Ryan…

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Mitt Keeps Tight Grip

Mitt Romney has announced his running mate, selecting seven-term Congressman Paul Ryan(R-WI) to fill the post. While I like Paul Ryan, I don’t think this choice will change the trajectory of this campaign, and like Sarah Palin in 2008, he may be the campaign’s biggest individual victim. Ryan has been inside Washington DC for nearly two decades now, a creature of the establishment who has worked for various well-known figures including Jack Kemp, William Bennett, Sam Brownback and others before kicking off his Congressional career.  Ryan is a technocrat in some respects, and while he is modestly conservative, his conservatism seems focused in the fiscal arena.  He’s been depicted by Democrats in television ads as the guy who pushed Grandma (in a wheelchair, no less) over a cliff.  What does he bring to the ticket?  Is Paul Ryan enough to save Romney from himself and a heretofore inept campaign?  Paul Ryan may be a nice guy, but is that enough in the face of a relentless attack the likes of which the Obama campaign is launching as I write?  I have my doubts, because running mates can’t overcome the inherent shortcomings of the top of the ticket, as the selection of Palin in 2008 proved, since even her talent wasn’t enough to overcome terrible advisers.  Can Ryan avoid the same fate?

Some might argue that what Ryan brings to the ticket is youth but also reliability.  After all, the seven-term Congressman has been toiling on budgetary matters for most of his career, and in the last number of years, he’s been focused on entitlements as the single largest factor in our continued deficits, and the consequent explosion in our national debt.  He was a fierce critic of Obama-care, laying out all of the ways in which it would explode our deficit, costing far more than promised by President Obama.  His willingness to tackle the entitlements issue when others ran for the tall grass earns him a gold star, and everybody should see this video of Ryan facing off with the President, explaining that hiding costs doesn’t reduce spending:

Romney is looking for a safe pick.  He wants a running mate who won’t embarrass him, but of course, Gov. Romney does enough of that on his own.  While in Norfolk,VA to officially launch his campaign, introducing Paul Ryan, Romney introduced Ryan as the “Next President of the United States…”  (We should be so lucky.)

Romney wanted a safe pick, and he got one.  Ryan is safe in every way an establishment Republican thinks is safe, but he isn’t a particularly charismatic or inspiring fellow.  He certainly seems like a nice enough fellow, but historical Republican losing tickets are littered with nice guys as running mates.  Dan Quayle is a nice guy.  Jack Kemp was a really nice guy.  What Romney’s ticket had needed was a bit more than a nice guy, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Paul Ryan except that he will not provide the boost Romney’s campaign needs.

Naturally, the Democrats were right out of the box with attacks on Ryan’s foreign policy experience, and true to form, Romney’s team countered with perhaps the most pathetic response ever:

“The ticket is no different than Obama and Biden.”

In the end, this may be why I agree with Mr. L on the 2012 election:

If the Romney campaign is going to defend Ryan’s lack of military and foreign policy experience on this basis, they’re going to lose. Who is running the Romney campaign?  To me, it looks like a re-run of 2008, with the weakest possible nominee, and a rising conservative lion in the role of sacrificial lamb.

I like Paul Ryan, and in fact, I like him too well to see him sacrificed on the altar of another losing campaign.  Just as Sarah Palin was sliced and diced by a dishonest press working on behalf of a desperate Obama campaign in 2008, I think we’re going to see the same thing in 2012 with Paul Ryan, although I doubt they could match their venom of 2008.  Why is it that for the second presidential campaign in succession, I have the distinct feeling that the Republican ticket should be flipped?

Of course, there’s one inescapable conclusion to be drawn from all of this, and it references those who Gov. Palin might consider part of the “permanent political class” of Washington DC, who move from campaign to campaign, party to party, back and forth and around again: It seems the same bunch is running the show in 2012 for the Republicans.  I noticed Elliot Abrams, who wrote a disgusting anti-Gingrich screed earlier this year was briefing Paul Ryan on foreign policy.  I noticed Andrea Saul, who worked for McCain in 2008, is doing Romney no favors in 2012.  It seems like the Romney campaign has hired many of the same faces who have remained behind the scenes, infecting Washington DC for a generation, and they all have something in common:  They know how to fight against conservatives, but they seem less than sincere in their fight against leftists.  One can only imagine why.

 Note to regular readers: Thank you for your prayers and get-well wishes as I’ve been recovering from an eye injury.  It’s still pretty sore, but on the mend. Thank you!