Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is a predictable yet somewhat risky choice.
Mr. Romney picked a conservative, white male that even looks like he could be a son. But Mr. Ryan’s conservatism is even more “severe” than Mr. Romney’s, based on Mr. Ryan’s budget and unwillingness to compromise.
Typically, presidential candidates in their primary races aim their words and positions to the more conservative or liberal wings in their parties. Mr. Romney certainly did that, switching positions on abortion, health care and immigration, among others.
After the candidate wins the nomination, he usually moves back toward the center. That’s where most Americans see themselves, as moderates. But Mr. Romney, still not trusted by many GOP purists, genuflected again to the right wing of his party by taking a chance on Mr. Ryan.
Liberal columnist E. J. Dionne said in a radio appearance with former Republican Congresswoman Linda Chavez when asked about the Ryan selection that he and Ms. Chavez were both happy but for different reasons.
Ms. Chavez is pleased with the selection of an ideologically strong conservative, although Mr. Ryan voted to bail out Wall Street and George Bush’s whopping deficits year after year.
Mr. Dionne is happy because he thinks the Democrats now have concrete proof that Mr. Romney is willing to drastically change Medicare and leans toward changing Social Security, both championed by Mr. Ryan. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan want to replace these programs with a voucher system that invariably will benefit giant insurance companies and Wall Street more than patients and small investors.
These two programs are considered deadly “third rails” in American politics. Touch them and you’ll get electrocuted.
Already, the Obama campaign is broadcasting an ad that focuses on the Romney-Ryan ticket’s willingness to toss out Medicare as we know it and love it. Remember the Tea Party sign that protested Mr. Obama’s health care act, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare?”
The ignorance embodied in that sign points to why the Obama campaign will push hard to educate the public on what’s at stake in this election. Look for generous spending in states such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia where many older citizens vote.
I believe Mr. Obama’s race remains the deciding, unspoken issue in the campaign along with the very visible and all-important challenge of re-starting the economy.
The Ryan choice certainly has sparked the Republican right wing. But so did Sarah Palin.