After a week of speeches, a hurricane watch, endless clips of President Obama saying “You didn’t built that,” speeches, silly hats, balloons and whatever it is that you want to call what Clint Eastwood did last night, the Republican National Convention is finally over.
We’ll have the Labor Day weekend to catch our breath and then be confronted with the Democrats infomercial in Charlotte. But before we get ready to digest the Obama and Biden show, here is a roundup of some winners and losers from Tampa.
The Associated Press and other fact-checkers are insisting that the line about the Janesville GM factory in Paul Ryan’s speech last night was inaccurate — and once again, the fact-checkers are wrong. Here’s the AP’s allegation against Ryan:
RYAN: Said Obama misled people in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wis., by making them think a General Motors plant there threatened with closure could be saved. “A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.”
THE FACTS: The plant halted production in December 2008, weeks before Obama took office and well before he enacted a more robust auto industry bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler and allowed the majority of their plants — though not the Janesville facility — to stay in operation. Ryan himself voted for an auto bailout under President George W. Bush that was designed to help GM, but he was a vocal critic of the one pushed through by Obama that has been widely credited with revitalizing both GM and Chrysler.
The AP might want to check back on its own reporting on the plant closure, starting with this article from April 19, 2009, headlined “GM plant in Janesville to close for good this week”:
Day two of the Republican convention showed no sign of letting up on its “you didn’t build that” theme, though the formal premise of the night was a slight adjustment to it: the phrase “we can change it.” But in a somewhat surprising moment, Paul Ryan seemed to accept the Obama administration’s complaint that the quote was taken out of context. Ryan offered an alternative riff on the phrase, implicitly explaining to the president why the context doesn’t exonerate him.
The president and his allies say that in context, it’s clear the president meant that government deserves some, but not all, the credit for these businesses for maintaining American infrastructure. But the full context, as I have written before, doesn’t help the president much because of the way he seemed to be mocking those who were successful. In a derisive tone, Obama said: “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.” So last night, Ryan said this:
Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores – these didn’t come out of nowhere. A lot of heart goes into each one. And if small businesspeople say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place. Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at five in the morning. Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them. After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn’t help to hear from their president that government gets the credit. What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that.
When Mitt Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate Democrats rejoiced. They were sure that the elevation of the author of the Republican Congress budget plan that called for reform of entitlements like Medicare guaranteed the president’s re-election. They had already been planning to run hard against the Ryan budget no matter who was on the GOP ticket. But having Ryan as their piñata seemed like a dream come true.
But tonight at the Republican National Convention, as Ryan got his prime time spot accepting his nomination, the rest of the country began to understand why conservatives have been so devoted to him. Ryan’s speech was not merely well executed but an example of how he earned his reputation as the intellectual leader of his party. Even more important, he showed that he and the man at the top of the ticket plan to run on the reformist ideas that Democrats think work to their advantage. Far from shying away from the Obama campaign’s Mediscare tactics, they are ready to rumble on a platform aimed at saving entitlements against the status quo policies of the administration.
I don’t know if Chris Christie has read the critiques of his keynote speech last night, but it doesn’t matter much now–especially since the criticism was mostly nonsense. But it’s exceedingly important that Paul Ryan–the star of tonight’s show–does not read the reaction to Christie’s speech. There were two major complaints about Christie’s speech–which, by the way, as Politico notes, was approved by the Romney camp with no complaints. The first is that Christie spoke too much about himself, and the second is that he didn’t speak enough about Mitt Romney.
Goodness gracious. The reason Christie spoke so much about his own experience in New Jersey is because that experience has shaped the entire justification for, and communications strategy of, the Romney-Ryan campaign. They have decided to run as reformers who speak hard truths and treat voters as adults. And most significantly, with Romney’s selection of Ryan, they have decided that political “third rails” can be touched, and perhaps even stomped on a bit. They have chosen, in other words, to follow Christie’s lead.
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.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s speech tonight was not your standard convention keynote address. He did not use his time to attack President Obama directly. Even more curiously, he did not mention the man he’s supporting for president — Mitt Romney — until the end of the speech. But he did put forward a vision of governance that could serve his party and the country well.
Christie is known for his YouTube clips where he takes down his liberal critics and earns kudos for his take no guff style. But his convention speech was not that of the angry guy who we saw on those videos. Rather, he was a thoughtful exponent of ideas about how the seemingly intractable problems facing the country can be solved given sufficient will on the part of its leaders. Christie said the difference between the two parties was that the Democrats believe Americans don’t want to hear the truth about out of control entitlements but that Republicans are willing to confront problems head on. In doing so, he threw down a challenge that showed his party is not going to evade Democrat class warfare tactics but is prepared to hazard the election on their being willing to listen to reformist arguments such as the ones he’s used in New Jersey.
On The Corner, Andrew Stuttaford flays a Chronicle of Higher Education essay by Alan Wolfe for displaying all the “arid, stifling conformist atmosphere of the ivory tower.” Both Stuttaford’s flaying and Wolfe’s essay on Ayn Rand are worth a read. Though I like the sound of Wolfe’s course on “Liberalism and Conservatism”–less so if he places Edmund Burke, a Whig, firmly on the side of the conservatives–Stuttaford’s contempt for the way Wolfe dismisses Rand as a “nonperson” is well-expressed.
But Wolfe’s piece isn’t just about the atmosphere. It illustrates William F. Buckley’s argument that academic freedom, conventionally understood, is a superstition. Buckley contended that, because judgments about professional competence must be made–professors of English teach poetry, not pushpin–there is always an academic orthodoxy. What Buckley wanted was for that orthodoxy to be his, not someone else’s. By Wolfe’s huffy way of thinking–“American academic life still has standards”–Rand belongs outside the realms of worthwhile orthodoxy.
Ron Paul is apparently making Republicans nervous — either because they’re worried his over-exuberant fans will disrupt the festivities today, or because they’re gunning for the libertarian vote in November (I’m guessing the former, since Romney’s not much competition for Gary Johnson).
Whatever the reason, Paul Ryan offered an olive branch to the Paulbots in a Fox News interview yesterday (h/t Jeff Poor):
“[Ron Paul and I] see eye to eye on a lot of issues,” Ryan said. “We believe in sound money. We believe in economic freedom. We believe in the founding principles. We believe this is a watersheds moment for America, whether we are going to reclaim the American idea or a cradle-to-grave welfare state which is where I think the president is taking us. So, I think in the final analysis Ron, he and his supporters should be comfortable with us.”
“Ron is a friend of mine,” Ryan added.
“I have known him a long time in Congress. And so at the end of the day it is a choice between the president’s failed leadership, the big government that he is offering, the borrowing that he is offering, the spending and regulating that he is offering, which will give us a stagnant economy, a lost generation, not just a lost decade, and the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan plan of reclaiming our founding principles, getting back to economic freedom and liberty and reviving this economy.”
Mitt Romney is closing the gap in Florida and Wisconsin, according to today’s Quinnipiac/CBS/NYT poll. According to Quinnipiac, this seems to be a mini-bump from the Paul Ryan pick:
Matching Obama against Romney among likely voters in each of these key states shows:
- Florida: Obama at 49 percent to Romney’s 46 percent, compared to Obama’s 51 – 45 percent lead August 1;
- Ohio: Obama edges Romney 50 – 44 percent, unchanged from August 1;
- Wisconsin: Obama at 49 percent to Romney’s 47 percent, compared to Obama’s 51 – 45 percent lead August 8.
Ohio is the one state polled where Romney’s numbers have remained flat. The poll was also taken between August 15 and August 21, so it may not reflect any negative impact from the wall-to-wall Todd Akin coverage (though abortion issues don’t rank anywhere near a top concern with swing-state voters, according to the poll).
I don’t want to be too optimistic about these numbers, since there’s still two and a half months of Mediscaring to go, and Democrats haven’t even gone full-blast on it yet. Still, this WaPo-ABC News poll (via the Fix) is pretty promising for Paul Ryan:
Grandma isn’t scared of Paul Ryan.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 41 percent of Americans view the new GOP vice presidential nominee favorably, while 37 percent rate him unfavorably — slightly improved from last week’s polling.
Among seniors, though, the numbers are even better for Ryan: 50 percent favorable and 35 percent unfavorable. Fully one-third of seniors say they have a strongly favorable view of the Wisconsin congressman, while one-quarter have a strongly unfavorable view.
The numbers suggest Democrats’ attempts to turn Ryan’s Medicare proposal against the GOP haven’t stuck yet among the most pivotal group: seniors. If a Medicare attack was working, after all, seniors would likely be the first group to start deserting Ryan.
It’s not just that the attempts have failed to stick. The fact that 33 percent of seniors (a plurality in this poll) say they hold strongly favorable views of Ryan suggests that this group a.) has probably taken time to think about him and made a relatively well-formed decision, and b.) is less likely to be swayed into the negative camp. That will make it more difficult for Democrats to spread misinformation about Ryan’s positions on Medicare.
In November 2010, the New York Times published a puff piece on the Brecht Forum, a club in New York where, to hear the Times tell it, cuddly Marxists hang out and play. “In a city known for cynicism, the Brecht, which survives on donations, is a surprisingly open and idealistic place,” the reporter wrote. The piece came in for a fair amount of ridicule. “Try to imagine,” Newsbusters dryly noted, “the Times getting so cozy among a group of mainstream Republicans, much less Tea Party supporters.”
I thought of that story when I was perusing the Times’s “Caucus” blog today and saw the following teaser to a Times Magazine piece on Paul Ryan and Austrian economics:
In a column in this week’s New York Times Magazine, Adam Davidson writes, will Friedrich von Hayek be the Tea Party’s Karl Marx?
Ahem. First of all, the magazine piece, which is already online, does not ask that question at all. Karl Marx isn’t mentioned in the article—so this isn’t the fault of Adam Davidson, who wrote a pretty fair snapshot of Hayek and the right. Since the blog item was just a teaser to another story, it had no author listed. So I will just ask a few questions here.
Despite pleas from leading Republicans, Rep. Todd Akin announced today that he would not step down as Republican Senate nominee in Missouri. The statement, which came on former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s radio show, is very bad news for the Republican Party. As I noted earlier today, Akin’s staying in the race not only turns a likely GOP Senate pickup into a likely Democratic hold, it also places in jeopardy any chance Republicans might have of repealing ObamaCare next January. It will provide ready ammunition to the Democrats’ disingenuous attempt to convince the country that the GOP is waging a war on women.
All of which makes it imperative that Mitt Romney speak out personally on the matter. If there was ever a time for a Romney Sister Souljah moment, this is it. The Romney campaign has issued a statement disagreeing with Akin and reportedly vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who serves with the Missourian in the House called him yesterday urging him to quit. But that is no longer enough. Romney has to come out in front of the cameras and the press and declare in no uncertain terms that Akin should end his Senate run and that he and all Republicans repudiate his views. An he must do it immediately in order to lessen the impact of the deluge of negative ads stemming from this fiasco that the Obama campaign will soon be issuing.
Here’s an interesting catch from CNN. Obama campaign co-chair and top bundler Marc Benioff has raised over $500,000 for Obama’s reelection, but apparently he also donated $10,000 to Paul Ryan’s PAC just two months ago (h/t Dan Halper):
Benioff has helped raise more than $500,000 for Obama’s re-election effort, and even hosted a $35,800-a-plate fundraiser featuring Stevie Wonder and hip-hop artist Will.i.am. …
But the tech executive is also a fan of Ryan — Mitt Romney’s running mate and a rising Republican star. In June, Benioff donated $10,000 to Ryan’s political action committee after meeting with the candidate, who at the time had not been named to the GOP ticket and was running for re-election in the House. …
What’s so attractive about Ryan, Benioff said, is his focus on deficit and budget issues. The nation’s fiscal difficulties must be addressed, the CEO said, and Ryan’s ideas offer “a lot of the right long-term thinking for the country.”
The Democratic effort to change Paul Ryan’s image from one of a choirboy intellectual to a monster threatening the rights of women is in full swing. As Politico reports, liberals are concentrating their fire not so much on the Republican vice presidential candidate’s plan to reform entitlements as on his part in the faux Republican “war on women” that they launched earlier this year. Instead of Ryan pushing granny off the cliff as part of the Mediscare smear, we’re likely to hear a lot more in the coming weeks about Ryan’s stand on abortion and efforts to depict his budget proposal as hurting women. But the question liberals need to be asking themselves today is not just if these sort of attacks will work but whether they might backfire with a crucial constituency the Democrats need desperately if President Obama is to be re-elected.
The primary obstacle to the Ryan demonization campaign is that it is difficult to whip up hatred for someone who is basically likeable. Ryan’s thought-provoking proposals are controversial because he isn’t afraid to take on hard issues and prescribe bold solutions to seemingly intractable problems. But politics is about personalities and the idea that a person like Ryan, whom has always been described even by his political foes as reasonable, cordial and respectful, can be transformed into a sinister figure is a stretch. It’s certainly not going to be accomplished by hysterical appeals from the left-wing groups or snarky columns by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd who today wrote of the GOP veep candidate as a Catholic version of arch villain Dick Cheney. The utility of this sort of cheap bile may be to rile up the liberal base. Yet the more Democrats go down this road, the danger is that they will not so much rally women to their cause as they will alienate working class Catholics, a demographic group that Democrats need to win elections.
One year in college, I had a roommate who liked to talk about the implications of the idea of the “multiverse”—the existence of multiple universes—and the often accompanying theory of trans-world identity, which holds that probability suggests that these different universes likely contain identical objects. My roommate would explain that there was probably another planet out there with identical people in it, but they could be expected to react to the same events and stimuli in ways wholly different from us—a sort of bizarro Earth.
I couldn’t help thinking of that roommate’s expositions when I read the New York Times’s explanation of why Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate and how that changes the election. The Times writes:
In the midst of an election in which few voters have not already taken sides, he is now running a campaign more focused on energizing an anti-Obama coalition than on trying to expand the universe of Romney voters with an argument that he is the most qualified economic steward….
Persuasion, especially on the Republican side, has given way to partisan stimulation. A sharp focus on the economy is giving way to ideology and personality.
Following several polls that show the race tightening in Wisconsin, CNN has moved the state from “lean Obama” to “toss up” on its electoral map:
CNN Thursday turned the important battleground state of Wisconsin from “lean Obama” to true “toss up” on its electoral map, in the wake of Mitt Romney’s naming of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, a seven term congressman from the Badger state, as his running mate. One contributing factor behind CNN’s move was a new poll that matched two others from last week that indicate that the presidential contest in Wisconsin is close. …
With Wisconsin’s move to true “toss up,” the CNN Electoral Map now suggests Obama leading in states with a combined 237 electoral votes, Romney ahead in states with a combined 206 electoral votes, and states with 95 electoral votes up for grabs. 270 electoral votes are needed with win the White House.
Over at his New York Times blog, Nate Silver probes the question of whether the polls that have come out in the last few days indicate any bounce for the Republican ticket in the days since Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan will be his vice presidential nominee. Though, as Alana noted earlier, a series of swing state polls brought some good news for the Republicans, he’s right to say there’s nothing in the data to indicate any real surge in their direction. Pollsters and analysts have in recent election cycles become obsessed with the idea that vice presidential picks and conventions must produce some sort of bounce in the polls to be justified. But, as Silver concedes, Republicans were not claiming that picking Ryan would have an immediate impact on the polls.
While Ryan is a well known, and at least as far as the liberal media is concerned, a controversial figure, he doesn’t have the sort of celebrity that would create a quick change in public opinion about the race. What he does have — and what Republicans who cheered the choice are counting on — is the ability to have a long-term impact on the election. The GOP is counting on Ryan’s intellect, charm and powers of persuasion to impress voters as the race wears on this fall, not to mention, the possibility of a mismatch against Vice President Biden in their debate. Indeed, Romney’s choice of a serious and thoughtful man to run with him is looking even smarter if only because the more Biden roams the country committing gaffes and throwing out wild and irresponsible slurs against the Republicans, the better Ryan looks.
Some analysts were skeptical that Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan would make much of a difference in Wisconsin, particularly since the state hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984. But Romney has actually opened up a small lead in Wisconsin, according to the latest Rasmussen poll:
The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Romney with 48% support to President Obama’s 47%. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and two percent (2%) are undecided.
In late July, it was Obama 49%, Romney 46%. This is the Republican’s largest level of support yet in the Badger State. Prior to this survey, the president has earned 45% to 52% of the vote, while Romney has picked up 41% to 46% of the vote.
A one-point lead isn’t much in a poll with a 4.5 percent margin of error, but Rasmussen’s findings on voter sentiment in the state are a good sign for Republicans:
Ryan, who has been a congressman from Wisconsin since 1999, is viewed favorably by 57% of the state’s voters. This finding includes 39% who view Ryan Very Favorably. Thirty-six percent (36%) share an unfavorable view of Ryan, with 23% who view him Very Unfavorably. Five percent (5%) are not familiar with the congressman.
Fifty-one percent (51%) of Wisconsin voters believe Romney made the right choice in tapping Ryan as his running mate, while 30% disagree. A plurality (46%) says they are more likely to vote for Romney now that Ryan is on the ticket, while 31% are less likely to do so. Twenty-two percent (22%) say the Ryan choice has no impact on their support for Romney.