With Paul Ryan as a candidate for vice president, Mitt Romney is shifting further to the right – and diminishing his chances.
Mitt Romney has done the American voters a big favor: With the decision for Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate he has made a clear choice possible in November between two vastly different directions in economic policy.
Romney’s economic program is archconservative, too. But in the primaries, he always presented himself as being somewhat more moderate than his Republican rivals. With Ryan at his side, this option is closed: The young representative is the intellectual head behind a radical-liberal platform in the sense of the tea party that would completely dismantle America’s already sparse social state.
At least Ryan placed a concrete proposal on the table with his “Path to Prosperity,” and with his powers of persuasion, he has succeeded in winning over the majority of the Republicans in Congress. He is a political heavy-hitter who is also respected by Barack Obama and other Democrats.
But his budget plan has two big weaknesses – a political one and a content-related one. His suggestion to de facto eliminate the government health program for seniors (Medicare) in the future and replace it with subsidies to private health insurance is highly politically charged. Even if this reform would only be true for future retirees, such suggestions antagonize the present retirees, who, as is well known, diligently go to vote.
Florida, the paradise for retirees, might now be lost to Romney and in other important states, too; the Democrats will argue demagogically, but effectively, that Romney-Ryan in the White House would endanger the health and life of retirees.
Therefore, Ryan was the candidate Obama wished for as Romney’s vice president – the corresponding TV spots are probably already ready to air. A serious examination of his [Ryan’s] proposal would be desirable there. But it is just an election campaign.
Ryan’s content-related weakness is that although he appears as a vehement fighter against the budget deficit, he excludes any kind of tax increases and even demands further tax cuts for the rich. When Ryan speaks of closing tax loopholes, he always remains nebulous.
At the same time even conservative economists are convinced that only a mixture of reduced expenditures and tax raises can curb the enormous U.S. deficit.
In Congress, Ryan fought all budget compromises with even the smallest tax increases and in so doing contributed to the political stalemate that could bring enormous spending cuts and higher taxes – when the cuts from the Bush era expire.
That makes Ryan not credible as budget policymaker and austerity master and gives the Democrats good arguments with even the moderate independent voters.
Deciding on Ryan is bringing Romney much applause in his own camp, where he still meets with much skepticism, but is diminishing his chances in November. Even more than before, it looks as if Obama will narrowly succeed in being re-elected.
Romney’s move is reminiscent of the last Republican who ran against a Democratic president: Bob Dole vs. Bill Clinton in 1996. Dole also had a credibility problem in the right camp and therefore took Jack Kemp, the radical tax and spending cutter who once gave Ronald Reagan many ideas, as his vice presidential candidate. Together, they went down against Clinton and Al Gore.
Ryan knows what it feels like to fail with radical conservative ideas in presidential elections. He was Kemp's young speechwriter at the time.