Commentary Magazine


Topic: Romney

Romney Has a Natural Convention Advantage over Obama

Three days before the GOP convention begins, the race is effectively tied. The first CNN poll to feature “likely voters” has it 49-47 with Barack Obama on top; Gallup and Rasmussen, which have daily tracking polls, have it dead even. I go into greater detail about Mitt Romney’s pretty good position here.

More important, though, is the opportunity Romney has when he delivers his convention speech Thursday night with the entire country watching. It is likely that 75 percent of the people who will see him on Thursday may never have heard him say more than a soundbite or two. Romney tends to rise to occasions, like the 20 Republican debates in which he performed—never badly, and probably outright won 15 of them. But this is the occasion of occasions—the most important night of his life and potentially a turning point in the nation’s life.

This is obviously a huge opportunity for Romney; and it’s an opportunity that Barack Obama does not have.

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Three days before the GOP convention begins, the race is effectively tied. The first CNN poll to feature “likely voters” has it 49-47 with Barack Obama on top; Gallup and Rasmussen, which have daily tracking polls, have it dead even. I go into greater detail about Mitt Romney’s pretty good position here.

More important, though, is the opportunity Romney has when he delivers his convention speech Thursday night with the entire country watching. It is likely that 75 percent of the people who will see him on Thursday may never have heard him say more than a soundbite or two. Romney tends to rise to occasions, like the 20 Republican debates in which he performed—never badly, and probably outright won 15 of them. But this is the occasion of occasions—the most important night of his life and potentially a turning point in the nation’s life.

This is obviously a huge opportunity for Romney; and it’s an opportunity that Barack Obama does not have.

As far as the convention speeches go, Romney has a surprising advantage over Barack Obama: The gift of novelty. What he will be doing the nation will never have seen him doing before. People will be curious to see how Romney does, interested to hear what he says—and, in a country that has spent a decade watching “American Idol,” will be full of opinions about how he performs.

Obama’s speech will generate nothing comparable. Quite the opposite. In the four years since his nomination in 2008, he has delivered a convention speech, an inaugural address, four State of the Unions, and (by my unofficial count) eight nationally televised prime-time addresses either in front of Congress or from within the White House. He has spoken and spoken and spoken—and at least judging from the response for the past two years, his speeches have not served to push the needle of public opinion in his direction.

So the public knows what Obama has to offer. Those who love him will love him; those who think he’s okay will think he’s okay; everybody else who doesn’t like him to varying degrees are unlikely to alter their views. Which means unless he delivers a masterpiece on September 6, his speech (and the convention that preceded it) are not likely to make much of a difference for him.

For Romney, therefore, the stakes are high and the rewards potentially higher. For Obama, it may just be another day being a rather gabby president.

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Romney Needs to Sister Souljah Akin

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.

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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.

Romney doesn’t have the power to make Akin end his now quixotic quest for a Senate seat that seems destined to ensure that a faltering Claire McCaskill will be re-elected even though most of her state wants her out. But Romney does have the standing to put the congressman in rhetorical Coventry by declaring that he personally as well as the rest of the party believe Akin has forfeited his place in national politics.

It is true that the Democrats were going to keep playing the war on women card even if Akin had never said rape victims could not get pregnant. But by saying it, Akin not only fulfilled McCaskill’s hopes that he would self-destruct. He also became the living embodiment of the cartoon version of the GOP that the Obama campaign is selling the public. Nothing short of an outright condemnation and demand that Akin step down from Romney can ameliorate the damage that is about to be done to the GOP.

Republicans are worried that a hurricane might disrupt their Tampa convention next week. But though the weather there next week is worrisome, it’s a minor consideration when compared to the disaster that is unfolding in Missouri.

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Akin “Forgiveness” Means ObamaCare Wins

The campaign of embattled Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin has responded to the furor created by his idiotic comments about rape with an ad asking voters to forgive him. In it a penitent-looking and sounding Akin apologizes for saying that women cannot be made pregnant when raped. Though a day late, it’s full-blown apology in which he walks back his offensive statement and seeks a fresh start from voters. That’s appropriate but it also misses the point. If Akin is still expecting conservatives to rally around him and claim he is a victim of media bias and double standards that allow liberals a pass on gaffes while conservatives are crucified, he’s mistaken. The stakes involved in this election are simply too high to allow right-wingers the luxury of sticking with the Missouri congressman.

The ad seems to signal that Akin is determined to stay in the Missouri Senate race. If so, that will set off a day of furious activity intended to convince him that he must pull out before the 6 p.m. (EST) deadline today that would allow Akin to be replaced on the ballot. The consensus on the right that Akin must go is based not just on revulsion against his stupid and insensitive crack. Conservatives understand that his determination to stay could allow the Democrats to hold onto the Senate this fall. Lest anyone forget, a Republican majority in the Senate next January is necessary if there is to be any chance that ObamaCare can be repealed before it goes into effect. Even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency and the GOP holds onto the House of Representatives, if Harry Reid is the majority leader when Congress reconvenes in 2013, ObamaCare will survive.

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The campaign of embattled Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin has responded to the furor created by his idiotic comments about rape with an ad asking voters to forgive him. In it a penitent-looking and sounding Akin apologizes for saying that women cannot be made pregnant when raped. Though a day late, it’s full-blown apology in which he walks back his offensive statement and seeks a fresh start from voters. That’s appropriate but it also misses the point. If Akin is still expecting conservatives to rally around him and claim he is a victim of media bias and double standards that allow liberals a pass on gaffes while conservatives are crucified, he’s mistaken. The stakes involved in this election are simply too high to allow right-wingers the luxury of sticking with the Missouri congressman.

The ad seems to signal that Akin is determined to stay in the Missouri Senate race. If so, that will set off a day of furious activity intended to convince him that he must pull out before the 6 p.m. (EST) deadline today that would allow Akin to be replaced on the ballot. The consensus on the right that Akin must go is based not just on revulsion against his stupid and insensitive crack. Conservatives understand that his determination to stay could allow the Democrats to hold onto the Senate this fall. Lest anyone forget, a Republican majority in the Senate next January is necessary if there is to be any chance that ObamaCare can be repealed before it goes into effect. Even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency and the GOP holds onto the House of Representatives, if Harry Reid is the majority leader when Congress reconvenes in 2013, ObamaCare will survive.

The math is that simple. The current RealClearPolitics map for the Senate shows 47 likely Democrat seats heading into the election and 44 for the Republicans with nine seats up for grabs rated as tossups. While theoretically the GOP can win a majority without Missouri, that is one seat they were already counting on to offset possible losses elsewhere. If McCaskill is left to run against the candidate of her choice, the chances of a Republican majority next year are dramatically reduced.

Just as important is the fact that if Akin hangs on, he will give Democrats a poster child for their effort to portray their opponents as waging a faux “war on women.” While they will do so whether Akin stays in or not, his withdrawal would be a strong statement of Republican intent and reduce the effectiveness of the effort to depict all members of the GOP as hostile to women. At this point, Akin’s resignation will mean as much to Mitt Romney’s chances of being elected president, as it will to Mitch McConnell’s hope to replace Reid as Majority Leader.

Akin may reason that if he hangs on his party will have no choice but to backtrack on their vows to starve him of funds especially if the race in Missouri stays close. But that would be colossal mistake for the party. No matter what he says, Akin’s candidacy is a lost cause and if they fail to isolate him, the taint of his stupidity will attach itself to every Republican in the country, including Romney.

Anybody can make a mistake but Akin’s belief that if he is sincere in his apologies, Missourians will forgive him and get back to focusing on McCaskill’s faults is wrong. Whether he knows it or not, he’s already lost his chance to sit in the Senate. The only question now is whether he is man enough to realize this in time and give some other Republican a chance. Republicans have only a few hours to remind Akin that this election is about more than his political future. If they can’t bring him to his senses, it will be bad news for Mitt Romney and those who understand that only a Republican sweep of the White House and both Houses of Congress can stop ObamaCare from becoming a permanent feature of American society.

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Which Candidate Cares More About Israel?

Ever since the last of a series of full-scale blowups between the Obama administration and Israel, Democrats have been desperately trying to convince Jewish voters that the president really is the Jewish state’s best friend. In order to do so, voters would have to ignore most of what had happened in the first three years of his presidency but they were able to argue that his decision not to blow up the U.S.-Israel alliance completely ought to serve as proof of his good intentions. That’s enough for many Jews whose partisan preferences leave them ready to believe the Democrats’ talking points. But while American voters, Jewish and non-Jewish who consider the question an important one, ponder the question of which presidential candidate is a better friend to Israel, the people with the most on the line in the Middle East also have an opinion.

The latest poll of Israeli views of the U.S. election is similar to previous surveys on the question of American leadership: they don’t trust President Obama. As the Jerusalem Post reports, a new Peace Index/Dahaf Institute poll shows that 2-1 majority of Israeli Jews think Mitt Romney cares more about them than the president. Forty percent of respondents said Romney “assigns more importance to defending Israeli national interests” while 19 percent said Obama did. Ten percent saw neither as being more supportive than the other while 25 percent said they didn’t know and six percent said “neither” backed their country.  Back in April a Smith Research/Jerusalem Post poll found that 60 percent of Israelis saw Obama as either pro-Palestinian or neutral in the Middle East conflict. All of which leads one to wonder why so many American Jews think they understand Obama’s views of the question better than Israelis.

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Ever since the last of a series of full-scale blowups between the Obama administration and Israel, Democrats have been desperately trying to convince Jewish voters that the president really is the Jewish state’s best friend. In order to do so, voters would have to ignore most of what had happened in the first three years of his presidency but they were able to argue that his decision not to blow up the U.S.-Israel alliance completely ought to serve as proof of his good intentions. That’s enough for many Jews whose partisan preferences leave them ready to believe the Democrats’ talking points. But while American voters, Jewish and non-Jewish who consider the question an important one, ponder the question of which presidential candidate is a better friend to Israel, the people with the most on the line in the Middle East also have an opinion.

The latest poll of Israeli views of the U.S. election is similar to previous surveys on the question of American leadership: they don’t trust President Obama. As the Jerusalem Post reports, a new Peace Index/Dahaf Institute poll shows that 2-1 majority of Israeli Jews think Mitt Romney cares more about them than the president. Forty percent of respondents said Romney “assigns more importance to defending Israeli national interests” while 19 percent said Obama did. Ten percent saw neither as being more supportive than the other while 25 percent said they didn’t know and six percent said “neither” backed their country.  Back in April a Smith Research/Jerusalem Post poll found that 60 percent of Israelis saw Obama as either pro-Palestinian or neutral in the Middle East conflict. All of which leads one to wonder why so many American Jews think they understand Obama’s views of the question better than Israelis.

The answer to that question is fairly obvious. It’s not that most Jewish Democrats really believe that Obama is sympathetic to the Jewish state. They have eyes and ears like the rest of us and can easily pick up the fact that, as veteran peace processor Aaron David Miller put it, “unlike [Bill] Clinton and George W. Bush, Obama isn’t in love with the idea of Israel.” It’s not just that most Jews aren’t single-issue Israel voters, it’s that for many of them, it doesn’t much matter. Others, including many liberals who do care about Israel, find reasons to grade him on a steep curve that allows him to pass muster because of his liberal positions on domestic issues.

But for that 10-25 percent of the Jewish electorate whose votes are in play this fall, the question of the president’s record on Israel will be important. Polls showing Israeli distrust of the president — which is getting deeper because of his lack of resolve on the Iranian nuclear threat — will make it even harder for Democrats to convince voters that he can be trusted to do the right thing for the Jewish state.

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Media Decry Attacks From “Both Sides”

You have a Democratic campaign that’s painting its opponent as a felon, a tax-dodger, a dog-abuser, and a killer who will bring back slavery. On the other side, you have a Republican campaign that’s responding to these attacks as “hateful” and “inappropriate.” The media spin? Both sides need to tone down the “toxic rhetoric”:

“You thought last week was bad? Just when you thought last week’s third grade insults were as low as the campaign could go here, here we go again, the campaign has gotten even uglier,” MSNBC’s Chuck Todd said Wednesday. “It’s not faux outrage, it’s real outrage. Over the last 24 hours, the attacks from both sides have reached a new level of vitriol.”

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien said the campaigns struck a new note of negativity.

“Romney and Obama campaigns going on the offensive at the same time? What that means is nasty rhetoric, really nastier than ever,” she said this morning.

Seriously? Romney has basically stuck to attacks on Obama’s policy, it’s the Obama campaign that’s gone into the gutter. In fact, the only “negative” remarks from the Romney campaign cited in the Politico story were made in response to Democratic smears. Yes, Reince Priebus called Reid a liar — in response to Reid’s baseless accusations that Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years. The Washington Post gave Reid’s claim four Pinnochios, and Politifact rated it as “Pants on Fire.” Should they be criticized for toxic rhetoric as well?

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You have a Democratic campaign that’s painting its opponent as a felon, a tax-dodger, a dog-abuser, and a killer who will bring back slavery. On the other side, you have a Republican campaign that’s responding to these attacks as “hateful” and “inappropriate.” The media spin? Both sides need to tone down the “toxic rhetoric”:

“You thought last week was bad? Just when you thought last week’s third grade insults were as low as the campaign could go here, here we go again, the campaign has gotten even uglier,” MSNBC’s Chuck Todd said Wednesday. “It’s not faux outrage, it’s real outrage. Over the last 24 hours, the attacks from both sides have reached a new level of vitriol.”

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien said the campaigns struck a new note of negativity.

“Romney and Obama campaigns going on the offensive at the same time? What that means is nasty rhetoric, really nastier than ever,” she said this morning.

Seriously? Romney has basically stuck to attacks on Obama’s policy, it’s the Obama campaign that’s gone into the gutter. In fact, the only “negative” remarks from the Romney campaign cited in the Politico story were made in response to Democratic smears. Yes, Reince Priebus called Reid a liar — in response to Reid’s baseless accusations that Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years. The Washington Post gave Reid’s claim four Pinnochios, and Politifact rated it as “Pants on Fire.” Should they be criticized for toxic rhetoric as well?

But media figures who sold the public on the myth of Obama’s new, upbeat brand of politics back in 2008 apparently can’t admit that he’s the one spearheading the sleazy campaign tactics this time around. Hence, the more comfortable narrative that “both sides” are equally responsible for the negativity. Mark Halperin’s recommendation that Obama call Romney and propose a “truce” seems particularly unrealistic. How can anyone expect Obama to do this in good faith, after his campaign told Politico last year that it’s plan was to “destroy” Romney?

“Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney,” said a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.

The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird. …

The second aspect of the campaign to define Romney is his record as CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm that was responsible for both creating and eliminating jobs. Obama officials intend to frame Romney as the very picture of greed in the great recession — a sort of political Gordon Gekko.

Why should it be a surprise that the Obama campaign is doing precisely what it said it was going to do?

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Romney Making Inroads with Youth Vote?

That’s according to the latest Zogby poll, which found Romney topping 40 percent with young voters for the first time since the race began. Meanwhile, Obama’s youth support still lags far behind 2008-levels. The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard reports:

For the first time since he began running for president, Republican Mitt Romney has the support of over 40 percent of America’s youth vote, a troubling sign for President Obama who built his 2008 victory with the overwhelming support of younger, idealistic voters. …

In his latest poll, Obama receives just 49 percent of the youth vote when pitted against Romney, who received 41 percent. In another question, the independent candidacy of Gary Johnson is included, and here Obama wins 50 percent, Romney 38 percent and Johnson 5 percent.

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That’s according to the latest Zogby poll, which found Romney topping 40 percent with young voters for the first time since the race began. Meanwhile, Obama’s youth support still lags far behind 2008-levels. The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard reports:

For the first time since he began running for president, Republican Mitt Romney has the support of over 40 percent of America’s youth vote, a troubling sign for President Obama who built his 2008 victory with the overwhelming support of younger, idealistic voters. …

In his latest poll, Obama receives just 49 percent of the youth vote when pitted against Romney, who received 41 percent. In another question, the independent candidacy of Gary Johnson is included, and here Obama wins 50 percent, Romney 38 percent and Johnson 5 percent.

Zogby wonders whether Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan could be boosting him with young voters. At the very least, it probably helps that Ryan breaks the mold of the media’s Republican stereotype. He’s young, has new ideas, and has (so far) avoided the third-rail social issues. Most young people also aren’t likely to be swayed by the Democratic Party’s Mediscare tactics. If anything, they’re probably more open than most groups to new ideas for Medicare and Social Security reform.

There’s also the jobs factor. Recent college graduates have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and they count jobs and the economy as two of their top election priorities. Their frustration with the slow recovery could be a major reason for the shift away from Obama.

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Ignored GOP “Strategists” Vent to Media

The Wall Street Journal takes aim at the “bedwetter caucus,” its term for the anonymous “Republican strategists and campaign operatives” who were fretting over the Ryan pick in a Politico article yesterday:

Republicans who believe in something can console themselves in knowing that these “pros” are reflecting the Washington conventional wisdom. Nearly everyone in the Beltway thinks it’s impossible to reform entitlements like Medicare, and or even to restrain the size of government, so why would a candidate be foolish enough to try?

This crowd is good at forecasting the political future as a repetition of the past and present, but as Irving Kristol used to say, they aren’t very good at predicting the turns. We’ll see if this year is one of those turns.

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The Wall Street Journal takes aim at the “bedwetter caucus,” its term for the anonymous “Republican strategists and campaign operatives” who were fretting over the Ryan pick in a Politico article yesterday:

Republicans who believe in something can console themselves in knowing that these “pros” are reflecting the Washington conventional wisdom. Nearly everyone in the Beltway thinks it’s impossible to reform entitlements like Medicare, and or even to restrain the size of government, so why would a candidate be foolish enough to try?

This crowd is good at forecasting the political future as a repetition of the past and present, but as Irving Kristol used to say, they aren’t very good at predicting the turns. We’ll see if this year is one of those turns.

I’d also add that stories like the one in Politico are a hallmark of Washington. After any major political decision, there’s always a losing side, and the losing side is almost always willing to talk. Obviously not every Republican “strategist” (a ridiculously vague term that could encompass half the city) in Washington supported Paul Ryan for VP. Some actively supported other VP options, and believed their favored candidate was the smartest choice for whatever reason. So they spilled their guts to Politico when someone else was chosen. You can bet some version of this story would have run no matter who Romney picked, just with different sources voicing slightly different complaints.

In a way, this is good for Romney. He’s been criticized as a play-it-safe candidate without a political core, who bases his decisions on what the latest polls say. Even if it just looks like he’s going against “conventional wisdom” in Washington, that can only help his image.

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The Choice Voters Wanted

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.

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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.

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GOP Convention Looks to the Future

The final slate of speakers at the Republican National Convention is shaping up, and it’s no surprise that Chris Christie and Marco Rubio both scored high-profile slots:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention later this month, USA Today reported. Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce Mitt Romney, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Christie confirmed earlier reports that he would give the 20-minute address, saying he will make an “empathetic” argument for the GOP and voting for Mitt Romney. The Republican governor is on his fourth draft of the speech and “grinding away on it,” he told USA Today.

The choices of Christie and Rubio for prominent roles indicate that the RNC’s convention theme is forward-looking, and reformist rather than rejectionist (a distinction that Michael Gerson articulated in the Washington Post a few months ago).

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The final slate of speakers at the Republican National Convention is shaping up, and it’s no surprise that Chris Christie and Marco Rubio both scored high-profile slots:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention later this month, USA Today reported. Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce Mitt Romney, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Christie confirmed earlier reports that he would give the 20-minute address, saying he will make an “empathetic” argument for the GOP and voting for Mitt Romney. The Republican governor is on his fourth draft of the speech and “grinding away on it,” he told USA Today.

The choices of Christie and Rubio for prominent roles indicate that the RNC’s convention theme is forward-looking, and reformist rather than rejectionist (a distinction that Michael Gerson articulated in the Washington Post a few months ago).

But the list of speakers is also interesting because of who has been excluded. There are libertarian-leaning conservatives, but Ron Paul has been skipped over in favor of his less doctrinal son, Rand. Sarah Palin wasn’t offered a slot, a result of her waning influence in the party and the rise of other conservative favorites who can satisfy the Tea Party base without alienating the center. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney didn’t make the cut either.

Also note that out of the top GOP primary contenders, only Rick Santorum has a speaking role:

Of Romney’s onetime rivals for the Republican nomination — a colorful cast that includes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former pizza executive Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) — only former Senator Rick Santorum has been asked to speak.

“The agenda of speakers reflect the priorities the campaign has going into the fall,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. “If they were to put someone out there who was not helpful, who was off message or a loud mouth, it would do nothing but hurt their efforts.”

While all of these candidates were at the top of the primary polls at one point or another, the RNC apparently doesn’t see them as the future of the party. The convention will elevate Christie and Rubio, and if Romney loses, they’re likely to be the top contenders — along with Ryan — in 2016.

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The “Game Change” Obama Never Existed

Yesterday, Alana asked a perceptive question about President Obama’s self-image as portrayed in Game Change. I think we have the answer. My favorite thing about Game Change–the book about the 2008 presidential campaign that was made into a much-maligned HBO film–is the index. Whoever created the index at the book’s publishing house assumed no one would read it from cover to cover, but instead that its target audience–people who are portrayed in the book–would scour the index for the references they were looking for. So the structure of the index is quintessentially Beltway.

What do I mean? The index entries are organized according to mainstream media conventional wisdom. So under “Obama, Barack Hussein,” there is an entry marked “calmness and self-possession of.” You know, just to help nudge book reviewers in the right direction. But the entry under Obama’s name that takes the cake is the one marked “conventional politics disdained by.” In case you haven’t heard, Barack Obama is a new kind of politician. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that accusing Mitt Romney of murder has become something of a central theme in the campaign to re-elect the president.

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Yesterday, Alana asked a perceptive question about President Obama’s self-image as portrayed in Game Change. I think we have the answer. My favorite thing about Game Change–the book about the 2008 presidential campaign that was made into a much-maligned HBO film–is the index. Whoever created the index at the book’s publishing house assumed no one would read it from cover to cover, but instead that its target audience–people who are portrayed in the book–would scour the index for the references they were looking for. So the structure of the index is quintessentially Beltway.

What do I mean? The index entries are organized according to mainstream media conventional wisdom. So under “Obama, Barack Hussein,” there is an entry marked “calmness and self-possession of.” You know, just to help nudge book reviewers in the right direction. But the entry under Obama’s name that takes the cake is the one marked “conventional politics disdained by.” In case you haven’t heard, Barack Obama is a new kind of politician. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that accusing Mitt Romney of murder has become something of a central theme in the campaign to re-elect the president.

Obama’s refusal to disavow the first ad in the death-by-Romney series was an indication that there would be more to come. And now there is. Today, several outlets have reported on the new AFL-CIO ad, which you can see here. Because of an item in a budget Romney hasn’t voted for and didn’t have anything to do with (Romney is not a member of Congress), Obama ally Richard Trumka is accusing Romney of eventually causing the deaths of many coal miners from black lung disease.

The media is getting in on the action as well. CNN went searching through its archives for footage of leftwing pundits describing Paul Ryan’s budget, and found a doozy: Paul Krugman telling CNN, “To be a little melodramatic, the budget would kill people, no question.”

“Melodramatic” is indeed one way to describe such a statement. Though perhaps Krugman isn’t the best pundit to make that accusation. The New Yorker profile of Krugman revealed that he and his wife threw an Election Day party with a strange theme: guests were directed to a fire pit into which they threw effigies of their most hated politicians. And then there was the Krugman column that opened thus: “A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy.”

And of course, the addition of Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket practically guarantees the return of the Democrats’ ad in which they dress up as Ryan and throw an old lady off a cliff. But you can hardly blame the Democrats for being so “melodramatic.” It turns out the Ryan proposal is not so easy to attack honestly, especially because it doesn’t impact current retirees. Kirsten Powers tried to get around this yesterday on Fox by simply designating the entire country senior citizens, which led to the following exchange with Charles Krauthammer:

POWERS: It will affect old people, just they’re not old right now. So they will eventually be old.

KRAUTHAMMER: They’re called young people.

Powers says they’ll “eventually be old,” but according to Democratic talking points, Romney won’t let that happen. In any case, where is Obama the intellectual in all this? What happened to the disdaining of conventional politics?

It turns out that if you follow those entries in Game Change, you don’t get examples of Obama practicing a new kind of politics so much as examples of Obama saying he wants to practice a new kind of politics. And that is the most damaging part of the contrast between a Romney-Ryan ticket and an Obama-Biden ticket: the polite charm, policy expertise, and gutsy new politics of real reform in place of the status quo are on the GOP side. Obama’s opponents are everything the media pretended he was. He may have encouraged the flattering depiction, but it’s doubtful he fooled himself into believing it.

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Ryan’s Social Views No Burden to GOP

The assumption among liberals is that the more the public learns about Paul Ryan, the easier it will be to brand him (in the words of Obama campaign honcho David Axelrod) as a “certifiable right-wing ideologue.” The core of that strategy is the belief liberals can demonize Ryan’s budget and his effort to reform entitlements. But another aspect of it is the notion that the Republican vice presidential candidate’s social conservatism is also an easy target. As a New York Times article details, Ryan is pro-life, an opponent of gay marriage and opposes the federal mandate that all employers must be compelled to pay for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs even if it contradicts their religious scruples. The assumption is that the mere listing of these positions that so offend liberal orthodoxy will ensure the defeat of the Republicans.

But as Politico notes today, as much as Ryan helps energize the conservative base behind a Romney candidacy about which they were lukewarm, placing the articulate congressman from Wisconsin on the ticket also helps put the votes of Catholics who are independents or conservative Democrats into play. While those who look to the editorial page of the New York Times for guidance may be outraged about Ryan’s positions on social issues, the number of those voters — including those whose support might be up for grabs in November — who share his view of ObamaCare as well as on abortion, gay marriage and guns is far greater. Ryan’s impact on the working-class Catholic vote that helped make the difference for Barack Obama in some states four years ago is a factor that many analysts are underestimating.

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The assumption among liberals is that the more the public learns about Paul Ryan, the easier it will be to brand him (in the words of Obama campaign honcho David Axelrod) as a “certifiable right-wing ideologue.” The core of that strategy is the belief liberals can demonize Ryan’s budget and his effort to reform entitlements. But another aspect of it is the notion that the Republican vice presidential candidate’s social conservatism is also an easy target. As a New York Times article details, Ryan is pro-life, an opponent of gay marriage and opposes the federal mandate that all employers must be compelled to pay for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs even if it contradicts their religious scruples. The assumption is that the mere listing of these positions that so offend liberal orthodoxy will ensure the defeat of the Republicans.

But as Politico notes today, as much as Ryan helps energize the conservative base behind a Romney candidacy about which they were lukewarm, placing the articulate congressman from Wisconsin on the ticket also helps put the votes of Catholics who are independents or conservative Democrats into play. While those who look to the editorial page of the New York Times for guidance may be outraged about Ryan’s positions on social issues, the number of those voters — including those whose support might be up for grabs in November — who share his view of ObamaCare as well as on abortion, gay marriage and guns is far greater. Ryan’s impact on the working-class Catholic vote that helped make the difference for Barack Obama in some states four years ago is a factor that many analysts are underestimating.

While it is possible that Mediscare tactics will stampede some voters who would otherwise vote against the president’s re-election, the idea that independents will be scared away from a conservative because of his views on abortion is something of a liberal myth. Those who have no sympathy for Ryan’s pro-life views or disagree with his opposition to more restrictions on gun ownership were never going to vote for Romney anyway.

But, as much as this may surprise the editorial board of the New York Times, there are voters out there who will see the elevation of a faithful Catholic to the GOP ticket as motivation to vote for Romney. The proof of this is in the composition of the Democratic ticket. While Biden is a supporter of abortion, his role in mobilizing working-class Catholics behind Obama was widely acknowledged in 2008. Democrats may believe their push behind a “social justice” agenda will help them hold onto Catholic voters, but the ObamaCare mandate against religious freedom is the flaw in that theory.

As much as many Catholics may disagree with their church’s teaching on contraception, the spectacle of the government compelling religious institutions as well as individuals to choose between their consciences and obeying the federal mandate is one that hurts Obama. Far from Ryan’s social conservatism being a problem for the GOP, the ability of the veep nominee to make a strong case for both economic freedom and the principles of his upbringing is an undervalued asset in the election.

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A Changed Romney

Watch this clip of Mitt Romney sparring with a heckler at the Paul Ryan homecoming rally in Wisconsin last night and tell me where this candidate has been the whole campaign. This is not the same stiff, cautious Romney we’ve been watching for the past year and a half:

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Watch this clip of Mitt Romney sparring with a heckler at the Paul Ryan homecoming rally in Wisconsin last night and tell me where this candidate has been the whole campaign. This is not the same stiff, cautious Romney we’ve been watching for the past year and a half:

If you haven’t had a chance to watch the full video of Romney and Ryan in Wisconsin last night, do yourself a favor and click over to C-SPAN when you get a chance. With Ryan at his side, Romney is alive, he’s confident and he actually connects with the audience. A.B. Stoddard is correct that he’s turned into a different candidate overnight:

In choosing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney not only surprised the political world late Friday night, but he has become a different candidate for president over night.

He is suddenly someone willing to take a risk, someone offering specifics instead of generalities, and someone willing to sell his own agenda to the voters instead of trying to bash his way into the Oval Office. And by embracing Ryan, and the controversial policy heft he brings to the ticket, Romney is now a serious candidate who has displayed true leadership — the willingness to do something politically dangerous because he believes it is the right thing to do.

Now, the question is, can Romney keep this up? Ryan has infused the campaign with new enthusiasm, but the trade-off is that the fight will get more difficult from here.

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Paul Ryan and Obama’s Identity Crisis

Many Democrats are outwardly cheering Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan. But I wonder what’s actually going through the minds of Obama’s inner circle. David Axelrod has probably run enough campaigns to realize that Paul Ryan is an exceptional political talent whose star is rising just as Obama’s is fading. And what’s the president thinking? Back in 2007, this was how Obama’s personal frustrations with his self-identity were described to the authors of the book Game Change:

“[Obama] wanted to be seen as substantive. He was substantive. And not being viewed that way was hurting his chances, he thought. I’ve spent my whole life caring about policy, he told his staff. I want to have new ideas. I want them to be specific. I want to make sure that no one can say they’re not specific enough. Obama had imagined at the outset of the campaign that he would set aside hours to consult with world-class experts, delving into the issues, devising innovative solutions. He kept asking for more time to do that, but his schedule was too jam-packed with fund-raisers and campaign events.”

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Many Democrats are outwardly cheering Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan. But I wonder what’s actually going through the minds of Obama’s inner circle. David Axelrod has probably run enough campaigns to realize that Paul Ryan is an exceptional political talent whose star is rising just as Obama’s is fading. And what’s the president thinking? Back in 2007, this was how Obama’s personal frustrations with his self-identity were described to the authors of the book Game Change:

“[Obama] wanted to be seen as substantive. He was substantive. And not being viewed that way was hurting his chances, he thought. I’ve spent my whole life caring about policy, he told his staff. I want to have new ideas. I want them to be specific. I want to make sure that no one can say they’re not specific enough. Obama had imagined at the outset of the campaign that he would set aside hours to consult with world-class experts, delving into the issues, devising innovative solutions. He kept asking for more time to do that, but his schedule was too jam-packed with fund-raisers and campaign events.”

Even back then, Obama was attached to the image of himself as a Serious Person. At the time, he didn’t have a history as someone who devised “innovative solutions” — in the Senate he had mainly voted along party lines, shying away from controversial issues. Since taking presidential office, Obama hasn’t fared much better when it comes to substance. He’s hopped from issues to issue — energy, jobs, the deficit, immigration — giving speeches, signing symbolic orders, proposing vague plans that don’t tend to get implemented. Even Obama’s signature achievement, health care reform, was crafted primarily by Congress.

Yet he continues to latch onto an image of himself as a policy wonk. During a recent interview with CBS, he said his biggest mistake as president was focusing too much on the “policies” and not enough on “tell[ing] a story to the American people.”

This seems to be a major element of Obama’s own self-identity. So it will be interesting to see how he handles a challenge like Paul Ryan — someone who is actually viewed in Washington as both a political superstar and a substantive man of ideas. Obama seems to be fairly thin-skinned for a politician, and he has a difficult time hiding it when he resents someone (see: Benjamin Netanyahu). He never appeared to hold strong feelings about Mitt Romney, but could that change now that Ryan’s entered the race?

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Liberal Surprise: Ryan Can’t Be Palin-ized

The liberal assault on Paul Ryan has commenced. But the first round of attacks can’t provide much solace to Democrats, who assume they will be able to demonize the Republican vice presidential candidate with ease. The first 48 hours of Ryan’s candidacy has already seen a deluge of abuse from the mainstream media editorial pages and columnists. If all you read is the opinion pages of the New York Times, which trotted out its second editorial rant against Ryan in two days, then you probably think that political strategist turned pundit Robert Shrum’s boast in the Daily Beast that by the time the Obama campaign is through with him, Ryan will be as toxic as Sarah Palin. Liberals like Robert Reich, who took to the Huffington Post to howl that Ryan’s ideas are “social Darwinism” or former Times editor Bill Keller who damned the prospective next GOP administration as a compendium of every wicked conservative idea ever conceived, clearly believe all they need to do is to just call Ryan and to a lesser extent Romney, every name they can think of.

But the problem with this effort to Palin-ize Ryan is that the first returns show it probably won’t work.

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The liberal assault on Paul Ryan has commenced. But the first round of attacks can’t provide much solace to Democrats, who assume they will be able to demonize the Republican vice presidential candidate with ease. The first 48 hours of Ryan’s candidacy has already seen a deluge of abuse from the mainstream media editorial pages and columnists. If all you read is the opinion pages of the New York Times, which trotted out its second editorial rant against Ryan in two days, then you probably think that political strategist turned pundit Robert Shrum’s boast in the Daily Beast that by the time the Obama campaign is through with him, Ryan will be as toxic as Sarah Palin. Liberals like Robert Reich, who took to the Huffington Post to howl that Ryan’s ideas are “social Darwinism” or former Times editor Bill Keller who damned the prospective next GOP administration as a compendium of every wicked conservative idea ever conceived, clearly believe all they need to do is to just call Ryan and to a lesser extent Romney, every name they can think of.

But the problem with this effort to Palin-ize Ryan is that the first returns show it probably won’t work.

One piece of evidence is the full length front-page profile of Ryan published in today’s Times. The story it tells of a small town boy whose intellectual prowess is matched only by his work ethic is not one that easily lends itself to the “extremist” narrative that the paper’s editorial page has been screaming about since Saturday. But the authors do their best to skew the portrait with language that doesn’t belong on the news pages of a reputable newspaper.

Part of the problem is that the Times can’t seem to find anyone who knows the likable congressman to dish any non-existent dirt on him. For example, in describing Ryan as an ambitious and accomplished teenager with numerous activities to his credit, the Times stoops to describe him as a “politically astute suck up.” No, that’s not a quote from some teenage rival but an editorial comment inserted into the article by the authors without quotes or even an attempt to attribute this opinion to anyone who knew him.

The article describes Ryan’s college career by again using a pejorative without quotes in which it characterizes his economic philosophy as “trickle down economics.” One can disagree with Ryan’s belief in the importance of economic freedom and the importance of encouraging the creation of wealth rather than expecting it to emerge as a result of some miraculous government intervention, but to use that kind of language again shows liberal reporters are trying a little too hard to follow their paper’s editorial party line in descriptions of the candidate.

Reality again collided with ideology last night on “60 Minutes.” The CBS program got the first post-announcement interview with Romney and Ryan last night, and there’s little doubt that liberals tuning into the program were hoping the Ryan roll-out would conjure up memories of how Sarah Palin was felled in her first network interviews after John McCain tapped her to be his vice presidential nominee. But Bob Schieffer never laid a glove on either Romney or Ryan. Much of the interview was softball material, but even when Schieffer attempted to attack the duo on the Ryan budget plan or entitlement reform, they easily turned away the assault and honed in on the president’s failings and the need to have the country face up to the tough issue of entitlement reform. Just as important, unlike Katie Couric’s confidence that she could embarrass Palin in 2008, Schieffer knew better than to try to tangle with the formidable Ryan.

While we can expect the assault on Ryan to only intensify in the coming days, liberals are already starting to show some frustration as they come up against the fact that whatever you may think of his ideas, he is both likable and admirable, something even President Obama was willing to admit earlier in his administration when he hoped to co-opt the intellectual leader of House Republicans.

Moreover, unlike Palin, Ryan is clearly ready to not merely hold his own on the enemy turf of the mainstream media but, as President Obama learned to his sorrow, is able to go on the offensive and challenge liberal orthodoxies without appearing like the snarling cartoon character that Democrats hope to paint to the public.

As I wrote earlier, it is an open question as to whether the American public will be willing to choose Ryan’s ideas about reforming our out-of-control tax and spend cycle over Democrat demagoguery intended to defend the status quo. But whatever the outcome of the election, the liberal boasts about turning Ryan into another Palin will fail miserably.

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On Ryan Plan, Can the Lie Become the Truth? (Hey-Hey)

The chief attack on Paul Ryan electorally is simple: His now-famous Plan “ends Medicare as we know it,” thereby stripping the elderly of their health care. They should fear it and fear him and vote against him.

The next three months will be a test of something important: Whether this assertion, which is an out-and-out lie, can overcome the plain explication of the truth.

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The chief attack on Paul Ryan electorally is simple: His now-famous Plan “ends Medicare as we know it,” thereby stripping the elderly of their health care. They should fear it and fear him and vote against him.

The next three months will be a test of something important: Whether this assertion, which is an out-and-out lie, can overcome the plain explication of the truth.

The design of the Ryan plan is as follows. Everyone age 55 and older remains in the current Medicare system. Period. Nothing changes. Nothing. Assume for the sake of argument that a President Romney actually adopts the Ryan plan in its particulars, and fights for it in the way President Obama fought for Obamacare.

It took 15 months for Obamacare to be signed into law. So let’s say it takes until April 2014 for the Ryan Medicare plan to become law, and it says what it says now—that everyone in the Medicare system now stays in and everyone a decade away from the Medicare system will join it.

As a practical matter, this means that in 2012, anyone 53 or older, not even anyone 55 or older, will have total access to the current Medicare system.

The political argument against the Ryan plan is that it endangers Romney’s chances in Florida; indeed, the Obama campaign has already begun running scary ads about Ryan taking away Medicare.

But it’s not true. It’s true for me; I’m 51. It’s true for the people who were two grades above me in high school. But it’s not true for anyone older than me; not a single retiree in Florida or anywhere else, in other words.

That’s just the plain fact of it. There’s no argument. The complex new system won’t even come into existence, by Ryan’s own design, until ten years after his plan becomes law.

So how can it threaten current Medicare recipients? It can’t.

Like I say, this is an interesting test. There’s the undeniable truth, and there’s the bald-faced lie. Which will be believed?

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The Referendum Has Already Been Held

Democrats are supposedly happy about Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan because it helps them transform the election from a referendum on the last four years (which Obama cannot win) into a choice about the next four (which Obama hopes to win by labeling Romney-Ryan “extreme” — the word used three times by David Axelrod in his mass email yesterday).

But the referendum on Obama has already been held. The 2010 election was a personal rebuke (Obama referred to it the next day as the “shellacking … I [took]”); two years later, the verdict on his performance is, if anything, worse: his approval rating among likely voters is at 45 percent, and 43 percent of them “strongly” disapprove – the same “strongly disapprove” percentage George W. Bush had in January 2009; likely voters want ObamaCare repealed by a lopsided majority (55-39); and Obama has been reduced to claiming he always said things would take much longer to get better, when he never said anything of the sort.

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Democrats are supposedly happy about Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan because it helps them transform the election from a referendum on the last four years (which Obama cannot win) into a choice about the next four (which Obama hopes to win by labeling Romney-Ryan “extreme” — the word used three times by David Axelrod in his mass email yesterday).

But the referendum on Obama has already been held. The 2010 election was a personal rebuke (Obama referred to it the next day as the “shellacking … I [took]”); two years later, the verdict on his performance is, if anything, worse: his approval rating among likely voters is at 45 percent, and 43 percent of them “strongly” disapprove – the same “strongly disapprove” percentage George W. Bush had in January 2009; likely voters want ObamaCare repealed by a lopsided majority (55-39); and Obama has been reduced to claiming he always said things would take much longer to get better, when he never said anything of the sort.

Paul Ryan has long argued that the 2012 election needs to be about a “choice” — not to win it, but to make it worth winning. In his eloquent November 12, 2001 address to the Claremont Institute, entitled “Our Churchillian Moment,” he concluded as follows:

[N]othing is more predictable than the danger rushing upon us from the oncoming fiscal train wreck. There is still time to take the actions needed to reduce spending, reform our tax code, take control of the debt, restore economic growth, and repeal and replace the president’s health care law … The biggest problem is timidity, lack of political will, fear of losing the next election for speaking truth …

Look, Republicans didn’t always get it right as a party ourselves. But if there ever was a time to gather our political courage and reclaim our ideas, it is now. The country is facing a very precarious moment. Your leaders owe you a real choice … It is our moral obligation, as elected representatives, to give the American people this choice.

Unseating an incumbent president always involves both a referendum and a choice. The verdict on Jimmy Carter’s performance was clear in 1980, but voters still had to be convinced that Ronald Reagan (whom the Democrats had demonized as “extreme”) was the right alternative; the election was close until after the debates. In 2012, the verdict on Obama has long been clear; with his pick of Ryan, Romney has now brought a similar clarity to the choice the voters face.

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Will Ryan Help Obama Win Jewish Votes?

One day after Mitt Romney announced his choice for vice president, the consensus among Democrats is all they have to do to win in November is to mention one word: Medicare. They are convinced Paul Ryan’s budget and his belief that entitlements must be reformed if they are to be preserved is easily demagogued. Mediscare tactics are at the heart of their belief that a critical mass of voters can be stampeded toward Obama and the Democrats by claiming Paul Ryan is the boogeyman who is going to push grandma over the cliff. There is good reason to believe that once Americans get a good look at Ryan and start listening to his ideas they’ll be convinced this liberal caricature is just the usual mainstream media sliming of conservatives, but if there is any group on which such fears might work, it is among American Jews. That will make the battle for the Jewish vote in Florida a key test of Democrat plans.

Though many in the Obama camp have been trying to pretend there is no problem for them among this staunchly partisan Democratic demographic, there’s little doubt that uneasiness about the president’s attitude toward Israel is going to cost him a lot of Jewish votes this November. The administration’s election year Jewish charm offensive confirmed the White House understands that three years of constant fights with Israel will have electoral consequences. But today, liberals are predicting Florida will be where they will best be able to stampede elderly Jews away from the Republicans, worries over Israel notwithstanding. That’s the conceit of the Forward’s first shot on the topic that claimed Ryan would be a “Four-Letter Word” among Jews. But liberal assumptions on this point may turn out to be more wishful thinking than anything else.

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One day after Mitt Romney announced his choice for vice president, the consensus among Democrats is all they have to do to win in November is to mention one word: Medicare. They are convinced Paul Ryan’s budget and his belief that entitlements must be reformed if they are to be preserved is easily demagogued. Mediscare tactics are at the heart of their belief that a critical mass of voters can be stampeded toward Obama and the Democrats by claiming Paul Ryan is the boogeyman who is going to push grandma over the cliff. There is good reason to believe that once Americans get a good look at Ryan and start listening to his ideas they’ll be convinced this liberal caricature is just the usual mainstream media sliming of conservatives, but if there is any group on which such fears might work, it is among American Jews. That will make the battle for the Jewish vote in Florida a key test of Democrat plans.

Though many in the Obama camp have been trying to pretend there is no problem for them among this staunchly partisan Democratic demographic, there’s little doubt that uneasiness about the president’s attitude toward Israel is going to cost him a lot of Jewish votes this November. The administration’s election year Jewish charm offensive confirmed the White House understands that three years of constant fights with Israel will have electoral consequences. But today, liberals are predicting Florida will be where they will best be able to stampede elderly Jews away from the Republicans, worries over Israel notwithstanding. That’s the conceit of the Forward’s first shot on the topic that claimed Ryan would be a “Four-Letter Word” among Jews. But liberal assumptions on this point may turn out to be more wishful thinking than anything else.

Democratic plans to demonize Ryan will find a ready audience among liberal Jews. Obama’s questionable record on Israel was never going to affect the votes of a majority of Jews. The issue was not whether Obama could hold onto more than 50 percent of Jewish votes, but how much of the 78 percent he got in 2008 would he be able to retain. The most optimistic estimates of the Democrat vote will keep him in the mid-60s, with his share of Jewish ballots in Florida probably being even lower. But Democrats are hoping that some of those Jews defecting from their ranks will start to slink back to Obama due to fears over the future of Medicare. Just as a loss of 10 to 25 percent of the Jewish vote could make the difference in Florida and perhaps even affect the outcome in Pennsylvania or Ohio if the election is close, a backlash against Ryan could also be decisive.

But Democrats shouldn’t count on the Jews falling back into their column so easily.

First, those Jewish voters who are most vulnerable to Mediscare tactics were already going to vote for Obama. If you are the sort of person who truly believes the Republicans are going to throw Bubbe over the cliff, you probably were never sufficiently concerned about Obama’s pressure on Israel and unwillingness to confront Iran to cross over to the GOP. The minority of American Jews who consider Israel’s security to be a major influence on their votes are not going to be so easily bulldozed by the Mediscare routine. Voters who believe the president will sell out Israel are not the most receptive audience for a Democratic campaign based on the idea that Romney and Ryan will sell out the elderly.

Democrats also forget that Jews are just as capable of figuring out that the only way to save Medicare is to face the issue head on rather than pretend, as Democrats intend to do, to preserve the status quo. As much as the left will lap up the attacks on Ryan and his budget, the centrist voters who are in play this fall may not be as easily fooled as liberals think. And there is another possibility that nobody on the left is prepared to even consider: a lot of those Jewish grandmothers and grandfathers who care about Israel may just decide they like Ryan a lot more than Obama.

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Paul Ryan at Full Volume

One of the most entertaining scenes of the seemingly endless Republican primary debate season was Juan Williams’s “food stamp president” question to Newt Gingrich, which Gingrich handled as Manny Ramirez used to handle unprepared pitchers: bait them into throwing the pitch he wanted, hit it out of the park, and give the pitcher a good stare-down as he began to round the bases.

It typified the reason many conservatives wanted to take on President Obama with Gingrich—namely, his ability to effectively challenge the premise of a question and change the conversation. This is a useful skill because the mainstream political press will always seek to force conservatives to play by whatever rules are most advantageous to the liberal establishment, and Gingrich was able to set his own rules, to an extent. But people tend to forget the rules automatically change during a presidential general election: the exposure nominees get, through public appearances, speeches, rallies, and debates, gives candidates an ability to speak over the din of the media and directly to the American people. It raises the volume.

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One of the most entertaining scenes of the seemingly endless Republican primary debate season was Juan Williams’s “food stamp president” question to Newt Gingrich, which Gingrich handled as Manny Ramirez used to handle unprepared pitchers: bait them into throwing the pitch he wanted, hit it out of the park, and give the pitcher a good stare-down as he began to round the bases.

It typified the reason many conservatives wanted to take on President Obama with Gingrich—namely, his ability to effectively challenge the premise of a question and change the conversation. This is a useful skill because the mainstream political press will always seek to force conservatives to play by whatever rules are most advantageous to the liberal establishment, and Gingrich was able to set his own rules, to an extent. But people tend to forget the rules automatically change during a presidential general election: the exposure nominees get, through public appearances, speeches, rallies, and debates, gives candidates an ability to speak over the din of the media and directly to the American people. It raises the volume.

Which is why the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate may make it more difficult—despite what liberals think—to tag Romney with Ryan’s budget as they seek to depict it. Joining the ticket means Ryan will be at full volume, speaking directly to the voters. A poll last week found popular support for Ryan’s budget after it was described in positive terms. If Ryan has the chance to frame the debate about his budget, Democrats may find the Obama campaign’s demagoguery less effective than they think.

Some on the left are sensing this already. Here’s William Saletan on the supposed poll-tested unpopularity of entitlement reform:

So what? Screw the polls. Republicans will be on the right side of the spending debate. They’ll be on the right side of the substance debate, too. Instead of bickering about Romney’s tax returns and repeating the obvious but unhelpful observation that the unemployment rate sucks, we’ll actually have to debate serious problems and solutions. That’s great for the country.

I’d adjust that second sentence slightly: Change the polls. That’s what Ryan will seek to do with the new platform Romney has given him. Ryan has already shown his effectiveness as a spokesman for serious reform. Now he’ll be at full volume.

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The Ryan Test: Demagoguery Versus Ideas

As John wrote earlier today, liberals are convinced that Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate offers them a golden opportunity to savage the Republicans about the Wisconsin congressman’s budget plans. Predictably, the New York Times delivered one of the first such salvos in its editorial posted hours after Romney announced his pick in which it slammed Ryan as “callous” and claimed his attempt to control the nation’s out-of-control entitlements would leave the poor and the elderly sicker while also harming the unemployed and students. Not considering it advisable to even make a pretense of noting the GOP veep candidate’s strengths, the Times thought it advisable to go for the jugular first and worry about nuance later. We can expect the rest of the liberal mainstream media to do no less in the days and weeks that will follow.

However, it must be noted that the expectation by liberals that they can get away with such blatant demagoguery is not entirely without foundation. The pick of Ryan should energize the Republican base and will lend intellectual heft to a Romney campaign that has often seemed intent on merely waiting for the voters to fire Barack Obama rather than putting forward its own vision. But we know that “Mediscare” tactics employed by the Democrats have worked sometimes. And, as Times political blogger and statistical analyst Nate Silver pointed out on Wednesday, Ryan brings no obvious or immediate tactical political advantages to the Republicans. If Romney’s choice does anything it is to provide a test for the electorate. Are they prepared to listen to reasoned arguments articulated by Ryan about the need for entitlement reform, or will they succumb to simplistic liberal cant about pushing grandma over the cliff? As much as conservatives want to believe the American public is not so foolish or shortsighted as to simply accept the left’s defense of the status quo, we won’t know the answer to that question until November.

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As John wrote earlier today, liberals are convinced that Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate offers them a golden opportunity to savage the Republicans about the Wisconsin congressman’s budget plans. Predictably, the New York Times delivered one of the first such salvos in its editorial posted hours after Romney announced his pick in which it slammed Ryan as “callous” and claimed his attempt to control the nation’s out-of-control entitlements would leave the poor and the elderly sicker while also harming the unemployed and students. Not considering it advisable to even make a pretense of noting the GOP veep candidate’s strengths, the Times thought it advisable to go for the jugular first and worry about nuance later. We can expect the rest of the liberal mainstream media to do no less in the days and weeks that will follow.

However, it must be noted that the expectation by liberals that they can get away with such blatant demagoguery is not entirely without foundation. The pick of Ryan should energize the Republican base and will lend intellectual heft to a Romney campaign that has often seemed intent on merely waiting for the voters to fire Barack Obama rather than putting forward its own vision. But we know that “Mediscare” tactics employed by the Democrats have worked sometimes. And, as Times political blogger and statistical analyst Nate Silver pointed out on Wednesday, Ryan brings no obvious or immediate tactical political advantages to the Republicans. If Romney’s choice does anything it is to provide a test for the electorate. Are they prepared to listen to reasoned arguments articulated by Ryan about the need for entitlement reform, or will they succumb to simplistic liberal cant about pushing grandma over the cliff? As much as conservatives want to believe the American public is not so foolish or shortsighted as to simply accept the left’s defense of the status quo, we won’t know the answer to that question until November.

The assumption on the part of many observers that Ryan’s elevation is the result of Romney’s understanding that his campaign needed a turnaround in the same manner as many of the companies he built at Bain Capital may not be true. It may be that Romney came to the conclusion that Ryan was the best qualified candidate of all those on his short list and saw in him a kindred soul who could govern effectively with him. If so, I think he was right. Ryan is, as Romney described him, the intellectual leader of his party, and a willingness by the GOP standard-bearer to make an ideas maven his running mate speaks well for his judgment. But there should be no misunderstanding about the fact that a lot of the blind optimism about the election one heard from Republicans in recent months was unjustified. Romney did need to shake up the race and he has done so.

President Obama’s electoral liabilities are well-known. He has presided over a poor economy and his major accomplishments — the enactment of a massive stimulus spending bill and his signature health care plan — are deeply unpopular. But his historic status as the first African-American president and the darling of the liberal media gives him advantages that are just as important. Without them, he would, as a president who faces the people with a higher unemployment rate than he inherited and with negative job approval ratings, be facing an epic defeat this fall rather than possessing a slim lead in the polls.

All of which means Romney’s decision to directly challenge the president by presenting conservative ideas that provide a strong contrast to the Democrat’s grim defense of the liberal status quo is a good idea. Romney can’t win by being passive. But it must be admitted that there is no guarantee that the liberals’ bet that scare tactics will prevail over the demand for rational reform will not prevail.

If anyone can provide a positive and well thought out answer to the deluge of fear mongering we will be subjected to in the coming months it is Ryan. It should also be remembered that just two years ago, the strength of the ideas of the Tea Party helped the GOP win a landslide in the 2010 midterms. The president and his backers may believe his presence on the ticket combined with an all-out assault to demonize Romney and Ryan will overwhelm the calls for an end to the endless cycle of taxing and spending. The battle has been joined and it will be up to the American people to determine which of these strategies is the one that will triumph.

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Paul Ryan and Liberal Glee

The selection of Paul Ryan has been greeted with a wild joy on Twitter, and not just by conservatives; I’ve seen hundreds of liberals celebrate the choice. A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Jesse Ferguson, said this: “So this is what xmas morning feels like?” The idea here is that Ryan is the perfect target for Democrats because he has proposed specific budget cuts and the overhaul of Medicare, while supporting tax reform that would lower rates on the wealthy.

Doubtless, Ryan has provided some subject matter for Democratic attacks. But so, in different ways, would anyone else on Mitt Romney’s short list. Romney already opened himself up to assault on the Ryan budget by calling it “marvelous,” and it’s not as though the Obama campaign was going to stand on scruple and let him go on that because he hadn’t formally adopted it.

The other two exciting possibilities on the Romney list, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, are arguably more dynamic than Ryan—Rubio is probably the best speaker in the GOP, and Christie the master of the viral—but they too would have been put in the position of actually having to defend the supposedly draconian Ryan budget the Democrats were and are going to hang around the Romney campaign’s neck. And they would have been worse at it, obviously.

More important is the quality of the glee itself. It’s an ongoing liberal political-character flaw. So insulated a are many, if not most, American liberals that they simply presume that which they despise is inherently despicable, and that what they fear is inherently fearful. As they gather in their echo chamber, all they hear are voices resounding with the monstrousness of redesigning Medicare and the parlousness of cutting the federal budget. They genuinely do not know that budget cutting is popular, even if only in theory, and that tens of millions of voters do understand the notion that the government is living far beyond its means. From what we can gather, in fact, these are exactly the sorts of ideas that speak to independent voters and have since the days of Ross Perot.

Ryan is a formidable presence in American politics. Generally speaking, formidable players do formidable things. The glee of the Left suggests its folk are so excited by what the Obama campaign can dish out that they are unprepared for what Ryan and Romney can dish out right back.

The selection of Paul Ryan has been greeted with a wild joy on Twitter, and not just by conservatives; I’ve seen hundreds of liberals celebrate the choice. A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Jesse Ferguson, said this: “So this is what xmas morning feels like?” The idea here is that Ryan is the perfect target for Democrats because he has proposed specific budget cuts and the overhaul of Medicare, while supporting tax reform that would lower rates on the wealthy.

Doubtless, Ryan has provided some subject matter for Democratic attacks. But so, in different ways, would anyone else on Mitt Romney’s short list. Romney already opened himself up to assault on the Ryan budget by calling it “marvelous,” and it’s not as though the Obama campaign was going to stand on scruple and let him go on that because he hadn’t formally adopted it.

The other two exciting possibilities on the Romney list, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, are arguably more dynamic than Ryan—Rubio is probably the best speaker in the GOP, and Christie the master of the viral—but they too would have been put in the position of actually having to defend the supposedly draconian Ryan budget the Democrats were and are going to hang around the Romney campaign’s neck. And they would have been worse at it, obviously.

More important is the quality of the glee itself. It’s an ongoing liberal political-character flaw. So insulated a are many, if not most, American liberals that they simply presume that which they despise is inherently despicable, and that what they fear is inherently fearful. As they gather in their echo chamber, all they hear are voices resounding with the monstrousness of redesigning Medicare and the parlousness of cutting the federal budget. They genuinely do not know that budget cutting is popular, even if only in theory, and that tens of millions of voters do understand the notion that the government is living far beyond its means. From what we can gather, in fact, these are exactly the sorts of ideas that speak to independent voters and have since the days of Ross Perot.

Ryan is a formidable presence in American politics. Generally speaking, formidable players do formidable things. The glee of the Left suggests its folk are so excited by what the Obama campaign can dish out that they are unprepared for what Ryan and Romney can dish out right back.

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