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Obama Fails to Define Ryan Before Speech

The left can’t seem to figure out whether it wants to call Paul Ryan a “radical” or a “coward,”; an Ayn Rand disciple or a religious fanatic. So it’s not a surprise that the Obama campaign’s attempts to define Ryan haven’t stuck. The Fix flags a WaPo-Pew Research poll that found Americans have a hard time finding negative things to say about him:

A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll asked Americans to say what one word comes to mind when they think about the GOP vice presidential nominee. And people have a hard time finding negative things to say about him.

None of the top nine words people use to describe Ryan are are negative, and six of the nine are positive (“intelligent,” “good,” “energetic,” “honest,” etc.).

Not until you get to the 10th- and 11th-most-cited words do Democrats’ attempts to define Ryan begin to register. That’s the point at which people start describing Ryan as an “idiot” and “extremist.”

What does this mean? The Fix’s Aaron Blake explains:

More than anything, though, it shows that Democratic attacks have yet to really sink in. Respondents actually offered nearly as many negative words as positive words, but the negative reviews are far more diffuse. Most negative words were only mentioned a handful of times, with little consensus on what’s bad about Ryan.

If Democrats’ efforts to label Ryan as an extremist who wants to end Medicare were really catching on, we would be seeing “extreme” and “Medicare” up higher. (In fact, “Medicare” wasn’t even mentioned.)

The Obama campaign’s attempts to define Paul Ryan before the convention have been a failure. When Ryan takes the stage at the convention tonight to officially introduce himself to the country, he’ll likely to be speaking to people who already have a generally positive or neutral view of him. That doesn’t mean Democratic attacks on Ryan over the next few months won’t shift public opinion, but it does mean the Obama campaign frittered away the critical pre-convention window of time.

Democrats have had difficulty defining Ryan negatively because he doesn’t fit easily into the cookie-cutter media narratives about Republicans. He’s too smart to be painted as a dumb cowboy, too genial to be pinned as an angry social con, and too poor to be branded as an out-of-touch rich guy. In a different election, Ryan might have been accused of being a cutout for the neocons, but that would threaten Obama’s (ludicrous) efforts to portray himself as a pro-Israel national security hawk this time around.

Clearly running out of ideas, the Obama campaign’s latest attack on Ryan is that he’s “old-fashioned.” Alas, the youthful and athletic Ryan defies that depiction as well.



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