Let me begin by saying I am not going to get into any kind of policy debate about what I think should happen or should be done, or evaluate the job Obama has done, or anything like that. It's something I simply don't have the stomach to do. This thread, as others before it, has potential to actually stimulate interesting conversation, at least until it devolves into a partisan bickering fest. That said, I do have a really good working knowledge of elections and voting behavior, so hopefully I can add a little something to the conversation.
By and large, VP candidates don't matter--people vote for the president, not vice president. They are almost never pivotal, and when they are, it's limited to their home state. So while the media is going to have a fun time with this, don't pretend for a second it's going to change the election outcome. That's not to say that VPs can't change anything--for example, if Romney had selected a skinhead, then yea, that would probably sink his bid for the White House. But presidential candidates don't make such a terrible choice that will sink them. Even the selection of Palin in 2008, which some have claimed sunk McCain...that's just not the case. Obviously she didn't carry him to the White House, but 2008 was a Democratic year and after the financial collapse it was over. McCain probably wasn't going to win even if Jesus were running with him.
So what can Ryan do for Romney? The focus should be on what happens in Wisconsin, as that's the only place Ryan is capable of mattering. It may be easy to conclude that Ryan's budget will become an issue and harm Romney in a senior-heavy state like Florida. That's unlikely. Basically, Ryan's proposed changes to Medicare were already an issue because Romney had endorsed the changes, and selecting Ryan as his running mate really doesn't change anything--the issue was already on the table, so to speak. So what happens in Wisconsin? Historically, VPs have been able to help carry their home state for their ticket--but this isn't always the case, and even if it were, why does this happen? The vast majority of the time the VP is either a popular governor or Senator--this is an important distinction from a House member, because governors and Senators serve a state-wide constituency. That helps give them name recognition, and if they're popular, pull the vote towards their party.
What's unique about Ryan is he is from the House--the last House member on a winning ticket was in 1932. House members simply have more trouble pulling their home state because they've never represented the state. So their name recognition is lower, and it's also possible they represent a district which is not in congruence with the rest of the state politically. This is essentially what is happening with Ryan--he's a very conservative representative, in a conservative district, which happens to be located in a traditionally Democratic state. Of those in Wisconsin who are familiar with Ryan (roughly 2/3 of the electorate, IIRC), he's polling slightly more favorable than unfavorable. If we assume the remaining 1/3 will end up rating him the same way, it's possible that his presence on the ticket will help pull more voters towards Romney than if he weren't on the ticket. But will it matter? That's very unlikely. Obama has had a consistent and comfortable (by comfortable I mean outside the margin of error) lead--a recent poll had him at +6 in Wisconsin. Even if Ryan were to close that gap by 3 points (which make no mistake, would be significant as far as polling is concerned) and into the margin of error, it's still unlikely that his pull is strong enough to flip the state.
At the end of the day, it remains highly, highly unlikely that Romney will win Wisconsin (Nate Silver pegged it at 2.5% more likely Romney wins the state--which makes him still 90%+ likely to lose it). The biggest impact of this selection may be that Ryan pulls Wisconsin just close enough that the Obama campaign has to expend more resources than planned in Wisconsin to hang on, leaving them more vulnerable in a different battleground state. To me, this selection isn't about possibly stealing Wisconsin from the Dems--it's all about shoring up the conservative base, which never fell in love with Romney.
I'm running with scissors!!!!
(What could possibly go wrong? )
To me, it's an interesting choice. He'll energize conservatives which will help Romney in the short term. If Romney wins, he will have a fiscal conservative along side him that is willing to actually propose budgets and explain why he believes what is in his budget is the right way to do things; but he will also have that fiscal conservative in arguably the least useful position in all of Washington to help get those budgets though. Ryan would be more useful to him post election in the House of Representatives in his current role of Chairman.
The Democrats are already running ads essentially claiming that Romney was responsible for a woman's death. I'm not sure that bringing Ryan onboard can make the attack ads any worse.
The move will likely mean the President will have to spend more in WI to ensure he carries it than he had planned / hoped.
I am definitely looking forward to the VP debate now. That should be truly entertaining.
Again, I see the choice as interesting. And, as if it wasn't already a choice between 2 very different courses for the future, the differences between what the candidates would do upon election are even more starkly contrasted.
I fully expect Ryan to "win" the VP debate, not that it will have any impact on the election. He's not Sarah Palin--he has a fantastic grasp and understanding of the issues, particularly economic issues, and he's not going to go out there and make a fool of himself that's for damn sure.
Edit: Oh, and that's an excellent point about the budget, which I definitely hadn't considered. He'd certainly be more useful as budget chairman than VP.
Edited by TrueBluePhD, 11 August 2012 - 06:10 PM.