Confessions Of A VP Voyeur

Sarah Palin scared the crap out of me. Paul Ryan? Not so much.

When John McCain announced that he was choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, I got a cold shiver down my spine. Not the same cold shiver I got two or three weeks later when it became clear that Governor Palin’s talking alone created a threat to our national and educational security, but a cold shiver that entertained the idea that these two could win the White House. And let’s be fair: Sarah Palin was a “fresh face,” she was “energetic,” she was a “woman,” (okay, lol. No¬†quotations¬†needed for that last one…), she could energize a crowd and she was very darned compelling. Next to her, Barack Obama looked plodding and dull. I thought the race was over.

We all know how that worked out, and America is a stronger country because of it.

All of this came back to mind over the past few days after Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate. My reaction? Very little emotion. I didn’t feel threatened. I wasn’t scared. None of that adrenalin fueled fear I had in 2008. Nope, Paul Ryan does not scare me in the least. And that’s interesting because Ryan has a wealth of ideas and proposals and serious thoughts that would never take an overnight in Sarah Palin’s amygdala.

I searched a bit deeper, and this is what I found.

Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are too much alike. When they stand together, they look like the corporate jerks who sent your job to Hyderabad and your health care to the local EmergiCenter. They even talk that way. I always admired how the GOP could take an image and make it work on television, but they’ve come a cropper this time. Looking at Romney-Ryan is not a compelling visual. As a matter of fact, it’s a bit boring.

The press narrative so far is that Mitt chose someone as a counterweight to his emerging image as a gaffe prone slice of white American cheese, but that’s exactly what Mitt didn’t need. He needed to move towards the center of the political spectrum with a politician who didn’t threaten the middle. Ryan looks the part of the counterweight, but his ideas are easily packaged as a scary, program-cutting menace who will throw your grandma under select vehicles that, at this point, you can’t afford anyway. And that’s exactly how the Obama campaign is playing it.

The other thing is that I don’t get the sense that the excitement over Romney’s choice will last very long. He’s already running away from Ryan’s budget, making the questionable assumption that his 59-point economic plan is somehow a better political plank than the reason he chose Ryan in the first place. Ryan is a darling of the far right, but not of the middle or independents. To win them over he’s got to move beyond deficit reduction to something the middle can grab hold of, but neither Romney nor Ryan has that. They have a bad economy, high unemployment and hatred of Obama on their right flank. They have to promise a vision of the country that’s better than what we have now. Cutting Medicare while saving every weapons program and keeping tax cuts for the wealthy is not the way to do that. The right-wing will vote for Mitt anyway, so he really didn’t need Ryan to shore up the base. What he will need is more independent voters in Florida and Ohio. I don’t think he gets them with Ryan.

In the end, voters want to know what’s in it for them. They say they want deficit reduction, but what they really want is a job and a home and a decent neighborhood school. Romney-Ryan has the opportunity to make the case for that, but it will be difficult because that’s not the evolving national conversation. President Obama has run a terrific campaign so far keeping Romney on his heels and controlling the message. Romney can try to change that message, but his choice of Ryan now limits, rather than expands, his choice of subjects. Just as Mitt is being defined as the rich guy, Ryan will be known as the cut Medicare guy. That’s not a winner.

And that’s why I’m not afraid of Paul Ryan.

(But Sarah Palin still scares the crap out of me.)

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www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and on Twitter @rigrundfest

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Robert I. Grundfest

I am a teacher, writer, voice-over artist and rationally opinionated observer of American and international society. While my job is to entertain and engage, my purpose is always to start a conversation.

Website: http://anjfarmer.blogspot.com

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