Though eleven weeks is an eternity in presidential politics, it now seems likely that Mitt Romney’s decision to choose Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate will come to be seen as the day when Barack Obama’s chances at reelection began to fade.
The 2012 presidential campaign is — at least for now — about substantive fiscal, economic, and regulatory matters, as well as about fundamental human freedoms. Romney has very serious problems in some of these areas. But Obama has failed miserably in all of them; Ryan’s presence on the Republican ticket will serve as a constant reminder of that indisputable fact.
Romney’s August 11 announcement electrified a GOP base which, though already motivated to defeat Obama, was having a hard time getting excited about their standard bearer. Now it seems that Romney himself has finally moved out of his previous robotic campaigning mode and may actually fight to win.
Meanwhile, the crowds lining up to see and hear Ryan speak have been so large and enthusiastic that the national establishment press has had to dust off its annual “March for Life” game plan and spectacularly lie about their size. The Associated Press and Politico claimed that Ryan spoke before a crowd of “hundreds of supporters” and “several hundred supporters,” respectively, at Ryan’s alma mater Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, on August 15, The New York Times counted “over 1,000,” but condescendingly noted that their number included “much of the current membership of his former fraternity.”
The truth? Every local news outlet reported that the crowd was in the “thousands.” A Dayton scribe relayed a Secret Service estimate of 5,500. WKRC-TV in Cincinnati reported that the crowd numbered 6,000, and uniquely told its viewers (but strangely, not its printed post’s readers) something even the rest of the local media “somehow” overlooked — namely that “a whole line of people were turned away, because there wasn’t enough room” to squeeze all who wanted to be there into the outdoor venue.
Romney’s move has clearly shaken the Obama campaign to its core. Less than a week after the pick, David Axelrod & Co. all but threw in the towel on disparaging Ryan, and instead made a desperate “offer” to stop attacking Romney over his tax returns if the former Massachusetts governor releases three more years of them — as if Team Obama can or even cares to hold their SuperPACs and press apparatchiks to that pledge.
Another indication that Romney’s choice of Ryan was substantive and astute is that the people who claim to wish for Obama’s defeat who have neither of those traits believe that Ryan is a horrible pick. The Wall Street Journal hilariously and all too accurately called them “the bedwetter caucus” in an August 14 editorial. One such coward sent an anonymous 1,300-word treatise to Howard Fineman at the Huffington Post, who of course pretended that his informant is conservative. Among this person’s howlers:
- “Jeb Bush would have been the strongest contender for VP because of his credentials and appeal.” This is the same Jeb Bush who still thinks that his father’s early-1990s betrayal of his “no new taxes” presidential campaign pledge, which set the stage for the Bill Clinton era, was a good move.
- “Romney won’t win Wisconsin unless it’s a landslide for him.” Really? Then why did the Rasmussen poll for the Badger State move from Romney trailing Obama by three points to leading by one just days after the Ryan pick?
- The dead-giveaway topper: “… support for the Tea Party and the number of people who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters have collapsed since the Ryan Plan was first promulgated.” Tell that to, among many others, incumbent Senator Dick Lugar, ousted in Indiana’s GOP primary by Richard Mourdock; Nebraska’s old-boy network, stunned by Deb Fischer’s triumph in the Cornhusker State’s U.S. Senate primary despite spending only $300,000 (her two opponents each spent over $1 million); and Texas Republican establishment favorite David Dewhurst, crushed by insurgent Ted Cruz in the primary for that state’s open Senate seat.
We can also take comfort and solace in Romney not going the supposedly “safe” route, which more than likely would have led to the selection of Ohio Senator Rob Portman.
We’ll probably never know, but perhaps Romney’s vice-presidential vetting team happened upon two items which should have automatically eliminated Portman from any kind of consideration, and which should, unless demonstrably and consistently repudiated in words and actions in the coming years, forever remove Portman from serious presidential consideration.
The first is that he considers being a Washington establishment fixture a feature and not a bug. As the Washington Post accurately noted in the early stages of his 2010 Senate run, Portman first positioned himself “as a dealmaking insider” until he realized that he had to at least pretend to have Tea Party sympathies.
The other is that Rob Portman is all about Rob Portman. That isn’t my opinion; it’s something Portman himself told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2005 upon leaving Congress to become George W. Bush’s trade representative:
“I probably am a little risk-averse compared to some members [of Congress],” he concedes, “but I think a lot of that is a deliberate decision on my part that some things are worth it for my career and some things aren’t.”
So Rob Portman will do the right thing as long as it doesn’t hurt his precious career. This is the last thing we need in a United States senator, but for now we’re stuck with that. We certainly don’t need any more of it in the Oval Office or one heartbeat away from it. Fortunately, with Paul Ryan on the GOP ticket, we’re instead getting healthy doses of integrity and courage, which finally provide some hope for a change.