Political Animal


August 14, 2012 9:15 AM The GOP Pros Agree: Ryan a Bad Idea

By Ed Kilgore

I noted yesterday that leaks from within Team Mitt expressing bafflement about his decision to make Paul Ryan his running-mate probably reflected a combination of spin (“you know Mitt, he’s such a spontaneous, independent cuss”) and CYA. But there’s a substantial Burns/Haberman/Martin piece up at Politico today that looks beyond what the Romney campaign is putting out and suggests a strong consensus of GOP political pros don’t like this move at all:

In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.

In this article, and elsewhere in the conservative chattering classes, there’s a lot of unfocused talk about the clarity Ryan brings to the GOP message, and the excitement he inspires among conservative activists. That’s all entirely true, but perhaps a bit besides the point, as one GOP op told the Politico reporters:

Another strategist emailed midway through Romney and Ryan’s first joint event Saturday: “The good news is that this ticket now has a vision. The bad news is that vision is basically just a chart of numbers used to justify policies that are extremely unpopular.”

We’re already hearing a lot from Republicans about Romney’s “courage” in choosing Ryan and the “tough choices” the ticket is willing to ask the American people to make. In Washington-speak, “courage” often means “folly,” and “tough choices” means advocating something voters don’t like. There is no inherent virtue in that; plenty of unpopular policy proposals are also stupid and evil, and in fact lots of them are contained in the Ryan Budget. But it’s worth remembering the code when you hear GOP insider talk about the ticket going forward.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on August 14, 2012 9:30 AM:

    I think the Republicans have kicked a slumbering giant which is now awakening, and they are going to pay for their folly. The only chance Republicans had was to make this a low turnout election like 2010. The Romney/Ryan Budget brings the entire campaign into focus. This election is going to be between competing visions and the Democratic vision will win.

  • Blue Girl on August 14, 2012 9:32 AM:

    Maybe Mittens realized he was going to lose and picked Ryan to be the goat.

  • c u n d gulag on August 14, 2012 9:36 AM:

    The GOP has made it's job twice as hard.

    From here on out, it's gonna have to be "The Selling of the President, AND the Vice President."

    Right now, the GOP's trying to make everyone in the MSM memorize the following:

    “Paul Ryan is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life

    'Reince' and repeat.

  • Anonymous on August 14, 2012 9:36 AM:

    David Frum on the Face the Nation on CBS last Sunday nailed the issues.
    Its panel discussion was actually pretty good after a typical, ugly, back and forth between Romney and Obama teams.


  • Mikhail on August 14, 2012 9:36 AM:

    I get the feeling that it should really have been a bad sign for Romney that the Democrats are just as excited over the Ryan pick as the conservatives. It's just... Ryan is such a fat target. Do you talk about how he wants to slash medicare? Or how he wants to basically abolish the FBI, the Department of Education, and most other government programs? Do you talk about his involvement in the Social Security privatization plan under Bush? Or how he wants to reduce Mitt Romney's taxes to zero (more tax talk!)

    For Obama not to take advantage of all of this would amount to political malpractice and gross stupidity, and nothing that the Obama campaign has done so far has suggested that they're stupid.

  • boatboy_srq on August 14, 2012 9:42 AM:

    In UK slang, in certain contexts "brave" can also be used for "stupid, and showcasing that stupidity." We're seeing some of that here.

    It's way too early for celebrations, but perhaps we'll see the true, ugly nature of the Conservatist beast if Romney-Ryan are defeated as spectacularly as the GOTea fears, and the 2014 Congressional campaign and 2016 Presidential one will showcase just how nasty Conservatists have become. Should that happen we'll have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to slay the beast and get back to responsible governance for another 20-30 years. Either that or the Red States will secede again - and maybe this time we should let them.

  • Rick B on August 14, 2012 9:46 AM:

    I really didn't expect the fact that Ryan is an in-your-face conservative ideologue with no significant national history beyond word of mouth from conservatives about what a great choice he was to sink in as a disaster this soon.

    Ryan's libertarianism sets him in the same groups as Senator Phil Gramm (who gave America the end of Glass-Stegal), Dick Armey (the very nasty libertarian who departed Congress for the Koch payroll handing out money and buses to Tea Baggers) and the Randian acolyte Alan Greenspan whose loosening of interest rates in the Bush administration and refusal to regulate mortgages issued led directly to the housing bubble followed by the 2007 housing collapse that led to the great Recession.

    From this long sad set of failed ideas somehow Ryan is supposed to be able to help the socially challenged Mitt Romney connect with voters and get elected President.

    Well, I guess Ryan might be able to offer someone that white blue-eyed males can identify with, even if not trust. And a ticket led by someone born in Michigan and backstopped by someone born and raised in Wisconsin might give the appearance of being core Americans. But not really.

    Either of them speak any Spanish? Ha!

  • T2 on August 14, 2012 9:48 AM:

    @Blue Girl....there is only one goat here, and that is Romney.
    As for the Ryan pick, I said yesterday the clamor for Romney's taxes, the Bain messes, the flip-flopping, the lying....have all suddenly stopped and that is very timely and very good for Mitt- he was dropping like a rock under the weight of those issues. Now he has to concentrate on defending Ryan's indefensible Budget Plan against attacks from every direction, which I don't think would have been the campaign choice a month ago.
    So for the time being, the Romney campaign is wondering if and when the Obama campaign will again bring up the Tax Problem, the Lying Problem, the Mormon Problem, the Bain Problem as well as the Medicare Problem and the Do Nothing House of Representatives Problem. Here's hoping he won't have to wait too long.
    Unfortunately for Romney, he now has to host the GOP/TP Convention, which will feature a never-ending list of speakers screaming about how the RYAN Budget will solve all our problems, especially Medicare and Social Security.

  • c u n d gulag on August 14, 2012 9:51 AM:

    Blue Girl,
    I think Mitt realizes that he's looked upon by the base as a "Reluctant Conservative."

    Ryan's looked upon as "The Real Deal."

    If Mitt loses, I wish him luck trying to convince the powers that be in the Republican Party that he lost because is Ryan.

    Since Conservatism cannot fail, as it is the perfect system, Mitt will be seen as yet another candidate who has failed Conservatism. Mitt, the "Reluctant Conservative" will not have been nearly "A True Conservative" enough.

    Ryan will be their candidate in 2016, because at this point all the party can do, since they can't admit that the last 30+ years have been disasterous for the country, is double-down on "TEH STOOOOPID!"

    And if Ryan loses in 2016, it won't be the fault of Conservatism, it'll be because Ryan won't have been Conservative ENOUGH!

    I can foresee a possible Palin candidacy in 2020, since you can't get much crazier than her and not have the person be caged, strapped-down to a gurney, and wearing a mouthguard in the Hannibal Lecter wing of a loony bin.

    But, don't give up hope - there may be crazier still!

    After all, the Teabaggers are still out there. And Obamacare will help them stay alive longer, which is one of the bad side effects of the nascent national health care system.

  • Anonymous on August 14, 2012 9:52 AM:

    The problem with Ryan types is that they are only thinking of federal debts.
    So in order to cut the federal debts, they will pass the debts back to states and private households. The debts won't be reduced. They simply will be transfered.

    The reason we need to cut the federal debts is that it will eventually stagnate the growth, be a burden on private tax payers. Bonds holders will want assurances.
    But we are nowhere near on the way to Greece. But we are trying to avoid becoming Japan by paralysis.

    But getting private households debts back on the truck is much more important to get back our consumer demand and business investment. Right now American private citizens and companies are saving after a decade of over-consumption. And that's why federal government have to run a deficit to fill in through public investments and tax cuts.

    Ryan plan does not address any of this. I think he is an intelligent academia type without actual economics backgrounds. he is the same as one of those "going back to the gold standard" idiots who know nothing of English financial history.

  • Billy Ingram on August 14, 2012 9:52 AM:

  • Rick B on August 14, 2012 9:56 AM:

    Does anyone think that the outcome of deliberations regarding who the Pres/Veep team should be looks like it was made by a diverse and educated staff given the goal of choosing someone who would complement Mitt's strengths and expand on and cover his weaknesses?

    OR does it look like the decision of one man who wanted someone as much like himself as he could find?

    I vote for the decision of an autocrat who does not easily trust others and share power and who wants someone else of his own social class. This (Mitt as decision-maker) is the kind of person who simply cannot deal with highly complex and varying problems in which he has only limited control and certainly has opposition.

  • DAY on August 14, 2012 9:58 AM:

    The list of presidential elections since I began voting (1960) with BOTH candidates qualified, is both subjective, and short:
    Nixon and Kennedy has to be included since both men became president, and historians give both a decent grade.

    The losers are all flawed to some degree, until 1980, when, again both men became president, and again get good marks. Carter is beginning to get his due- as it Reagan!

    1992 is a repeat of the above, with both Clinton and Bush 41 holding the job, and again getting a decent grade.
    And that is it: Three contests in 52 years, and none in the last 20. They don't make 'em like they used to!

  • Anonymous on August 14, 2012 9:59 AM:

    Ryan and Tea Partiers make me appreciate Bush teams a lot more.
    I miss moderate (as in sane) grumpy Republicans back! At least they knew regular Americans and basic math.

  • g on August 14, 2012 10:01 AM:

    Ryan is Mondale in 84 promising to raise people's taxes.

  • Larry Reilly on August 14, 2012 10:01 AM:

    Problem is, Ryan brings out the truth of what Republicans are all about -- and they know they lose with it.

    Don't forget that Ryan really, really, really believes with all his heart and mind that the oil squeezed from that snake will actually heal.

  • T2 on August 14, 2012 10:06 AM:

    "Problem is, Ryan brings out the truth of what Republicans are all about -- and they know they lose with it."
    Truer words have never been spoken. That is why voter disenfranchisement, voter ID, and flat out lying have become GOP/TP trademarks. They can't win on their ideas or their record.

  • sparky on August 14, 2012 10:09 AM:

    Credit romney with picking the candidate that rank and file republicans deserve. For those who think this election is all about God and guns and gays Romney's choice leaves little doubt that the real issue here is going to be the economic future of the United States.The basic issue is going to be how we answer the question of how the economic pie is going to be divided: Will the workers who create the wealth and man the military providing for our defense be fairly compensated for their efforts, or will they be left to feast on the crumbs that fall from the tables of the rich? Romney's arrogant refusal to share his tax records with the citizens of the country he wants to lead is a proper backdrop for the Ryan economic plan which would reduce that tax liability from being embarrassingly low to proudly non-existant. The democrats must emphasize the real difference between the economic policies of the two parties at every opportunity. Voter turnout is going to be critical because in spite of the seemingly obvious differences the Tea party idiots seem determined to vote against their own economic best interests.

  • Diane Rodriguez on August 14, 2012 10:32 AM:

    Romney's signature is arrogance in all things with a generous side of desperation. On the Ryan pick, it was the desperation that kicked in. I'm waiting for him to force Ryan on the convention stage with lipstick, heels,a pet pig and the Ms Congeniality trophy.

    I'm really hoping that the Ryan decision will turn out well for us and election racism-stupidity won't prevail.

  • burro on August 14, 2012 10:34 AM:

    The crap is out of the bag. The r's survive by baffling with bullsh!t. All the nasty, destructive and unpopular, (once sane people get a whiff of it), stuff that the wasteland party wants to dump on America is going to get an airing, (pee-yoo), because of Ayn Ryan's presence that wouldn't have happened so forthrightly with FUBARRomney Etch A Sketching relentlessly through the process with some bland, blind white termite like Portman or Pawlenty.

    RepubCo sucks, and Ayn Ryan is a nice, clear, undeniably stinky example of why they suck, and Ayn Ryan is going to be front and center laying out the case for RepubCo suckiness for the next few months.

    The butthead r's lose the election, which they were going to do anyway, but they also have lost all pretense about being anything except what they really are because the destructo r agenda is wide screen and Technicolor for the next few months, starring Ayn Ryan.

    Mitt who? Oh yeah, the guy up to his waist in water who's holding the scupper plug and looking confused.

  • Anonymous on August 14, 2012 10:37 AM:

    I hope that the supposed Romney Harakiri does not lead to complacency in the White House and Chicago.

  • Tom on August 14, 2012 10:38 AM:

    A lot of people thought that there would be a rebellion from the Right if Romney started to go down in the polls before the convention. He did and there was and it was over pretty quickly. The Tea Party and Right Wing Media forced Romney to pick Ryan. For some, it may have seen like a way to save the ticket in 2012. For others, it was writing Romney 2012 off and positioning Ryan for 2016, when he does become the "next President".
    Where the big billionaire funders in this story? The Koch brothers, for example. The downside of having a small pool of ultra-rich donors is that they have great influence, but not much professional political sense. Something is fishy about the fact that political pro's opposed this pick, but Romney pushed it through, even he is so risk-averse himself. Why?
    The VP selection process in the GOP has since Eisenhower chose Nixon exposes again and again the utter lack of seriousness about governing that infects that party. Short term political posturing is all it ever is.

  • Elie on August 14, 2012 10:39 AM:

    I dunno but it seems that the Romney campaign and the candidate, are like some blindfolded, clueless group of a social club that can't figure what it wants to do about anything. The choice of Ryan was another example of self inflicted, cluelessness. They seem unable to connect any dots between cause and effect -- EVER! Romney has been running for President since 2006 and he apparently never thought through how to deal with his taxes and financial issues?! Clueless is the only word that comes to mind... living in some alternate universe where the laws of physics are different -- where they just wish for a reality and it is so. Its appalling really -- that our political system (no matter which party), could surface an individual so ill prepared to govern. I thought that Palin was bad, but truly, the Romney campaign and just about all its decisions make Palin's selection look to be just a moderately bad decision... These people are very very scary in their incompetence...

  • Neil B on August 14, 2012 10:39 AM:

    Heh, of course the GOP brass and backers don't like the Ry-Ayn pick: it show honestly and clearly shows what the Party is all about! They don't want to run as what they are, they want to trick people.

  • Neil B on August 14, 2012 10:42 AM:

    However do not be complacent: with all that money going into the race, the voter suppression, the lies and the LSM, the wired up old white people, it will take all the bloody effort Democrats and any sane allies can pull together, to prevent the tragedy of a R-Money/Ry-Ayn win.

  • Rip on August 14, 2012 10:43 AM:

    "Political pros" on both sides of the political spectrum seem drawn to second guessing choices the candidates make that the "pros" themselves weren't involved in. Ryan will end up being neither the game changer, conservatives hope will happen, nor the disaster Democrats desire.

    Romney and Ryan will weasel away from the less popular elements of their ideology, speaking in broad platitudes while pretending they are boldly addressing "tough choices". The base won't care, and the handful of undecided voters left won't be impressed. This is still a Romney vs. Obama matchup, and the most impact that the Ryan choice might have is to lose Romney a tight race in Florida, or win him a tight race in Wisconsin.

    The short term benefit to Romney, is that because Ryan is a bit more newsworthy in the media's estimation than Portman and Pawlenty would have been, it takes the spotlight off Romney and his failings for the next couple of weeks leading into the convention.

  • Kathryn on August 14, 2012 10:44 AM:

    I don't think anybody mentioned campaign money, 100% lying Romney/Ryan tv spots and the gutless MSM which refuses to call them out. Those three factors cause me heartburn. Also disturbed by some of the picks for debate questioners, Candy Crowley and Bob Schieffer particularly......but then I'm a worrier.

  • Geneva Mike on August 14, 2012 10:45 AM:

    What makes me believe this is true is the fact that you don't hear the opposite case -- "We're really scared of Ryan, but are pretending not to be" -- being made by the Dems, either on or off the record. This was an act of desperation by Romney. Anyone who has to worry about securing his base this late in the campaign is in serious trouble.

  • gregor on August 14, 2012 11:20 AM:

    I think the best analogy for the Ryan/Romney ticket that I have seen is Ayn Rand/Leona Only Little People Pay Taxes Helmsley

  • Neil B on August 14, 2012 11:32 AM:

    BTW, we may be falling for the "Mitt's advisers were against picking Ryan" meme, which will be getting around. Uh, Mitt's "open" advisers were against it. But this notion, he just bolted upright and called Ayn Ryan out of the blue eyes, smells fishy. Let's consider that more likely, Ryan's real adviser in the Kochtopus, the Dick Army, and so on pressed him in no uncertain terms that he'd better do this. And so that means, they are going all out to push their man through. Make no mistake, we have to fight tooth and nail.

  • Rick B on August 14, 2012 12:00 PM:

    @Anonymous 9:59 AM:

    I agree that this Romney-Ryan matchup makes the Bush 43 teams look much better. But they were assembled by Karl Rove and by Cheney/Rumsfeld. Those guys had real Presidential-level governing experience.

    This current mess results from the fact that a wealthy Mormon cult-leader bought the Republican nomination, beating a group of loser clowns, and depending on no other clear guidance. Romney has never been nearer to the White House than to be a visitor. His sole set of qualifications are wealth, a famous father, chiseled good looks, and years of patient effort to reach the position he has now. His sole qualification governing is RomneyCare, something he has had to reject.

    There is not much in that history that would lead one to expect competence if he became President.

    But Romney considers himself one of the American elect. He is the grandson of a Mormon Apostle and a leader in his religion. He is a member of the upper level 1% in wealth. His disdain for all people subordinate to his class shows through clearly. Of course he should become President. Who else is in his class? Just ask him.

  • Steve on August 14, 2012 12:01 PM:

    I am a bit surprised that, as far as everything I have read and seen on the news, while lots of folks are of the opinion that by choosing Ryan, Romney is merely energizing the Republican base, no one has speculated on how this might affect Democratic turn out.
    Prior to choosing Ryan, I think that really only two issues held out any hope for Romney; voter suppression and the potential for some lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Democratic electorate. I believe that by choosing Ryan, Romney may well have energized Democrats to turn out in droves. Ryan is the poster boy for the far right-wing, with his positions on social issues and desire to cut taxes to the bone (I loved the Obama ad I saw last night, where it is pointed out that Romney paid 14% in income taxes on the one return he has released, and that under the Ryan budget Romney would have paid less than 1%!) while gutting healthcare, social security, medicare, medicaid, education, infrastructure, etc.
    Romney may have fired up his base, but, I think that any gains there will be more than offset by increased Democratic turn-out and alienation of a lot of independents.

  • TCinLA on August 14, 2012 12:44 PM:

    Maybe Mittens realized he was going to lose and picked Ryan to be the goat.

    Blue Girl, I have been deeply impressed by your political astuteness, going back to Carpetbagger Report days, so I will just say my jaw dropped to see your name attached to the above statement.

    The Wingnut Base will only get crazier when they lose this November, and the guy they're going to tar and feather is Willard the Wanker for being, well, a wanker. They're going to tell themselves that if "our guy" (Ryan) had been the one running, that the "natural conservatism" they keep believing the American public truly believes in, would have had the chance to come out and be victorious in restoring the America That Never Was that they live in. If anything happens at all, it will be that Ryan is their leading contender (competing with Aqua Buddahead Rand Paul) to go prove it. The only way they're going to be less ignorant is after more of them die off.

  • TCinLA on August 14, 2012 1:01 PM:

    Also disturbed by some of the picks for debate questioners, Candy Crowley and Bob Schieffer particularly......but then I'm a worrier.

    You're right to worry, Kathryn. Schieffer is so senile these days it is deeply disturbing and sometimes disgusing as well as often gut-churning to watch him blow it constantly. Crowley is a perfect example of why her employer is now known as The Cretins' News Network.

  • boatboy_srq on August 14, 2012 3:28 PM:

    Has anyone else had the (very dark) thought that the GOTea may be counting on a Romney-Ryan win, followed closely by a Romney assassination? It was one thing when QEotP was going to be "one heartbeat away from the pResidency" - crazy is medicable if not precisely controllable. Ryan would actually be able to advocate for all the wingnuttery without sounding like an uneducated shrill reactionary.

    Then again, maybe that's why Tampa is still the site of the convention this year: to give the locals and true believers first shot at the pResidential candidate.

    Scary, no?