Rooting for Ryan

    Finally, something that the two parties agree on:Conservative Republicans are clamoring for Mitt Romney to pick Paul Ryan as his number two. Democrats are praying that it happens.The right-wingers’ pitch for the Wisconsin congressman has reached a crescendo during the last 48 hours. Naturally, they love the fact that he designed the House budget plan, the one that proposes to slash government programs and kill Medicare as we know it. They think that Ryan would galvanize the often-laughable Romney campaign. Here, for instance, is conservative commentator Rich Lowry: “There’s no doubt that the heart of the Ryan budget (turning Medicare into a voucher plan) is a major political risk. But the GOP is wedded to it. House Republicans passed the Ryan budget – twice. Romney himself endorsed it….Romney has to carry the argument to President Barack Obama. The state of the economy alone isn’t enough to convince people that Romney has better ideas to create jobs. Neither is his resume. Romney needs to make the case for his program, and perhaps no one is better suited to contribute to this effort than Ryan….Ryan would inject a jolt of energy into the campaign and reorient the debate around policy. The Romney campaign doesn’t have to be reckless. It does have to have a pulse.”And that pulse seems pretty weak at the moment. After a disastrous July, Romney has ceded a lot of ground to President Obama. The latest CNN/ORC poll says that Romney is trailing nationally by seven percentage points, and by a whopping 11 points among swing-voting independents. And the latest Fox News poll – repeat, the Fox News poll – says that Romney is trailing nationally by nine points, and by 11 points among independents.So maybe Romney needs to do something bold to get back in the game. Maybe he should forget the boring white guys (Rob Portman, Tim Pawlenty) and pick someone who can really stir the pot. Hence the conservatives’ push for Paul Ryan.And, over on the sidelines, Democrats are saying, “Please, please, please, please pick Paul Ryan.”Why? Because Paul Ryan would scare the wits out of swing voters.He’d be a big hit with conservatives, but otherwise he’d be an albatross. His 2011 House plan to kill guaranteed Medicare would dominate the campaign dialogue – and hurt the GOP on election day.How do I know this? Because it happened in 2011, on an election day.In April of last year, House Republicans approved the Ryan budget plan, which essentially privatizes Medicare. Then, on May 24, a special congressional election was conducted in upstate New York, to fill the seat vacated by GOP lawmaker Christopher Lee (the Internet sex cruiser). The district had been solidly Republican since 1857, so everyone assumed that Republican candidate Jane Corwin would win in a walk. But, as I wrote here in mid-May, Corwin was suddenly toting some heavy baggage, thanks to the Ryan plan: “It’s political folly to go after the popular Medicare program. It has always been that way, going back half a century. Only a purblind conservative ideologue could possibly think otherwise.”As it turned out, Corwin had a very tough time. At first she tried to defend the Ryan plan, but that caused her poll numbers to plummet. Then she reversed herself and tried to distance herself from the Ryan plan – insisting that she wasn’t “married” to Medicare privatization – but that maneuver hurt her as well, because it basically confirmed that the Ryan plan was a political loser.She lost by four points. In a rural-suburban district where registered Republican voters outnumber Democrats by 30,000.So here’s the obvious question: If a Republican House candidate couldn’t even win an election in a rock-ribbed Republican district, thanks to the heavy weight of the Ryan budget plan, what does that say about Ryan’s credentials as a veep choice for Romney – in an election that will hinge on swing voters in swing states?The Democrats should be so lucky.——-Speaking of Romney, his TV ad attacking Obama’s welfare policy is a clinic in the art of lying. His claim – that Obama has “gutted” the federal welfare-to-work law – has no basis in reality. My Friday newspaper column tracks his credibility chasm.——-So much to talk about these days – and I talked aplenty this morning on WHYY’s Radio Times. The hour-long show is archived here.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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