The rattling you just heard was the cart of Champagne being wheeled into Obama campaign headquarters.
The president’s strategists had fervently hoped that Mitt Romney would tap Paul Ryan, and their dream has come true. The GOP veep nominee is one of the top players in the singularly unpopular Republican Congress, and he’s the architect of a budget plan that would make rich people richer, shred the social safety net, and kill guaranteed Medicare. Obama’s path to re-election just got smoother.It’ll be fascinating to watch Romney and Ryan stump for the phased-in privatization of Medicare plan in states with large elderly electorates – most notably, pivotal Florida. Yes, the Ryan budget (which Romney hails as “marvelous”) would exempt current seniors from his envisioned shift toward privatization. But current seniors also care about their own children, the baby boomers who are next in line for guaranteed Medicare. They’re going to be very wary of a guy who wants to kill a core entitlement program. Voters in general have already weighed in. As I wrote here yesterday, a Republican congressional candidate saddled with the Ryan budget was soundly defeated in a May 2011 special election – in a solid Republican district. As GOP commentator Ari Fleischer dryly remarked this morning about the Medicare issue, “The Republicans will have to keep an eye on it.”Ryan will also help energize Obama’s downscale and urban voters. Ryan’s deficit-slashing plan would balance the budget on the backs of those Americans whose health, education, and economic security hinges on government help (roughly 62 percent of Ryan’s proposed cuts would adversely affect low-income programs). Conversely, his plan envisions even more tax cuts for the wealthy, a fact that will further feed the perception of Mitt Romney as a guy who can’t relate to the average Joe.Indeed, President Obama spotted the key flaw in the Ryan plan even before the House Republicans passed it. In April 2011, he said in a speech: “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.” (Newt Gingrich said much the same thing last year, in his own inimitable way, assailing his fellow Republican’s budget plan as “right-wing social engineering.”)Romney’s veep choice is certainly bold, but it’s also a sign of political weakness. His original campaign strategy – to ride into office by inveighing against the economy – clearly hadn’t been working; three national polls this week showed Romney losing steam nationally and in swing states. And the conservative base was still underwhelmed by his candidacy. So he had to do something drastic, something that would jolt his tepid prospects, change the conversation away from his business background and his secret tax returns, and, most importantly, energize the conservative base. It’s not a good sign for Romney that he still needed to feed the wary base this late in the game. (This pick reminds me of 1996, when Bob Dole had to feed the wary base late in the game by tapping conservative icon Jack Kemp. We know how well that worked out.)The conservative base loves Ryan. The conservative think-tank intelligentsia loves Ryan. But I doubt that swing-state voters will love Ryan, once they learn more him. On that point, I’ll yield to Charles Krauthammer, the conservative commentator, who said last year of the Ryan plan, “it might be the most annotated suicide note in history.”——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1