There are moments in political punditry when it’s clear the so-called experts are anything but. This seems to be the case with what was by far the most common analysis of Paul Ryan’s selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate: pundits said it was a risk because the election would no longer be simply a referendum on an unpopular incumbent. But when you ask the voters about this, you get the opposite reaction. The Washington Post reports on its interviews with voters like Charles Bonuccelli:
“It’s not that I have an unfavorable impression of him. It’s that I have no impression of him,” he said. “You’re always kind of wondering, behind the facade, what are we going to get?”
The next day, he figured it out.
“This is a man who is to be taken at his word,” Bonuccelli said this week, after learning that Romney had chosen as his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), a man known for his laser focus on shrinking the government.
“The thing was that we didn’t understand who this guy [Romney] was — was he serious about these things? It was a confirmation that he is serious,” he added.
The Post also quotes a voter named Mike Cunningham, to similar effect:
“We’ve already lived with four years of Obama. We already know what he’s about,” Cunningham said. “Romney keeps saying he’s from the business world. So now he needs to be more specific about what he can do, as a businessman, to turn around the economy.”
Several days later, he said that picking Ryan helped.
Contrary to fretting GOP insiders and countless “experts,” the voters don’t actually want a blank referendum on the president; they want to hear about an alternative vision for the country (smart voters!). Romney seems to have understood this better than most, and his campaign is making it an explicit theme. Here’s the Post reporting elsewhere on Paul Ryan’s campaign rally yesterday:
Paul Ryan on Tuesday rallied a raucous crowd of supporters at a high school here, making the case on his fourth day as Mitt Romney’s running mate that the GOP ticket is one of ideas, not just an alternative to President Obama.
“You see, we’re not going to go to people in this country and say, ‘The other guy is so bad that you have to vote for me by default,’” Ryan said in remarks at Palo Verde High School.
Voters also tend to respond to confidence, and this is a sure sign of it. The Romney-Ryan team has something to say beyond “Obama has failed.” Unlike those who didn’t want to roll the dice, voters don’t seem to think timidity is a virtue.