Political Animal


October 12, 2012 4:54 PM The Hero, Diminished

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve been wondering ever since Moderate Mitt came out of hiding after five years to beat his chest during the first presidential debate whether there’d be some serious conservative blowback. There wasn’t much, because (a) Romney didn’t really change any positions, but just postured as moderate and “bipartisan,” and (b) he “won,” and got a polling surge over the hated Obama.

But last night, it wasn’t the perpetually weasely Mitt who was doing the Moderate Mambo, but the Hero of Movement Conservatism, Paul Ryan, the man whose elevation to the ticket was designed to satisfy activists once and for all of Romney’s ideological bona fides.

And perhaps there are some stirrings of conservative dismay, as reflected in a reaction from BuzzFeed’s chief wingnut-watcher, McKay Coppins:

In the spin room after the vice presidential debate Thursday night, Republican operatives gamely described the face-off as a battle between good ideas and bad ideas; common sense and nonsense; forward-looking solutions and backward-looking defensiveness.
One thing it was not: a defining battle between conservatism and liberalism.
Paul Ryan’s addition to the Republican ticket in August was supposed to reshape the presidential race into a sharp clash of ideologies — a battle of ideas that would present the electorate with a clear choice between the free-market ideals Ryan championed in the House, and the Obama administration’s government-centered populism.
But after a short, buzzy week of excitement immediately following his pick, Ryan’s reputation as a conservative movement leader was buried under a pile of disciplined talking points and running-mate grunt work. After effectively vanishing from the national stage, Ryan re-emerged Thursday not as the intellectual leader of the right, but as passable debater with a slightly crooked necktie.

Much as conservatives want to beat Barack Obama by any means necessary, they are also as likely as liberals to want this to be a clear choice of agendas yielding a big mandate. I’m not privy to their private reactions to all of Ryan’s talk about “bipartisanship” last night, but they couldn’t have been happy. Ryan the Hero is shrinking before their eyes, and at some point they may wonder if they, like Ryan himself, have traded their birthright once again for a mess of moderate pottage.

In non-ideological terms, Dave Weigel had a nice encapsulation of Ryan’s diminishment:

On Thursday morning, Rep. Paul Ryan was the guy who bow-hunted for fun and posed for pictures of his P90X workout. On Thursday night, he had been unfairly bullied by an old guy.

Yep, this is something to watch between now and November 6—and definitely afterwards, no matter who wins.

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.


  • T2 on October 12, 2012 5:21 PM:

    the more we see of Ryan, the more a Media creation he is revealed to be. His programs are hot air presented as genius, his "hunk" persona is more creepy than hunky, and yes Dave Weigel, he got stomped by an old dude last night. The Future Poster Boy of Conservatives....well it may be back to the drawing board on that one.

  • digitusmedius on October 12, 2012 5:32 PM:

    I assume that most right wingers just know that their candidates are lying when they spout platitudes about bi-partisanship or backtrack on cherished rightwing ideological shibboleths like "tax cuts or death." I mean, I know their lying so rightwingers must know that, too, right?

  • MuddyLee on October 12, 2012 5:34 PM:

    Wish Biden had mentioned that, like Ryan's mother, Ayn Rand ended up on Medicare and Social Security too.

  • c u n d gulag on October 12, 2012 6:21 PM:

    My greatest hope, is that Paulie, by politically gay-marrying the older Mittens this year, has discredited himself for the remainder of his life.

    The Conservatives wanted Ghenghis Khan.
    Instead, they got Ryan Can't!

    Hey, if you're the "Young Gun, Uber-Conservative, Hard-core Workout Wonk," and get the living sh*t beaten out of you in front of millions of people by a smiling and laughing Medicare and SS recipient, I think that leaves your boy sub-genius with the "Mucho-Macho-Terminating-Moochers-Tough-Guy" reputation look like GovernorTerminatorFornicator AHHHNOLD S. getting the crap beaten out of him by Woody Allen with a limp kosher hot dog and a cold knish!


  • kabiddle on October 12, 2012 8:54 PM:

    I like Joe Biden. Always have.

    My father, who like Mitt's father really was a "car guy" and a pretty staunch Republican to boot, knew Joe Biden and liked him too. When being a conservative meant something more than just grabbing whatever is left of our rapidly diminishing global resources while fleeing the civic center.

    George Romney, William Milliken, James Blanchard and Gennifer Granholm were "car guys." John Engler was the first of the Romney/Ryan breed out of the gate as a governor of dismantling and was no "car guy." It was under him that Detroit stopped making cars, put the "bean counters" in charge, and thought they'd do global banking and labor-outsourcing rather than car design and manufacture.

    (Rick Snyder? Not sure yet. He's got a lot of coattails from Gennifer Granholm and he may be smart enough to know it.)

    But Mitt Romney a "car guy"? I think we should call him a Resource Extraction Expert. He and his like-minded are not interested in the PRODUCT manufactured by company A, B or C or the labor pool that supports that product. They are interested in the balance sheet -- whether it be inventory, debt, pension agreements, labor commitments. Those are cash entitlements available to the savvy risk-taker. Taking on that risk is apparently more important than manufacturing cars. For people. So they can go to work. Because the Republicans today hate mass transit too.

    Joe Biden and my father understand the value of fair work for fair pay. They both have their own different take on unions, collective bargaining, charitable and civic work, the role of religion in the civic square. The decency of never, ever letting go a glaring lie when it really matters. So I loved watching Joe last night. He is a "car guy". No doubt.

  • Nick on October 12, 2012 10:41 PM:

    'Car guy.' Must be -- he built an elevator for his.

  • Harold on October 13, 2012 4:17 PM:

    Obama now leads Romney in Arizona (yes, you read that right -- in Arizona).

  • Anonymous on October 14, 2012 12:18 AM:

    Paulie's a joke. Analyze his bow hunting routine with his special no scent scent, and super dooper acme disappearing cream.Either he's crafting an image of himself as a supreme hunter on the molecular level or he's fooling himself.He might as well rub himself down with Pine -sol and maybe he could trick a beaver searching for some good buliding supplies or hang a pork chop around his neck to attract his prey.
    What are you hunting, Paulie? To me it sounds like you're hunting for rubes.