Rep. Paul Ryan charged into his first solo day of campaigning as Mitt Romney's running mate on Monday, hitting President Obama hard on the issue of welfare reform. Conservatives have applauded Romney's pick, saying it has fired up the GOP base and proven Romney's commitment to fiscal responsibility. (Average Americans weren't so thrilled; according to a USA Today/Gallup poll, 42 percent see Ryan as a "fair" or "poor" choice, while only 39 percent think he is an "excellent" or "pretty good" pick — the lowest rating of a veep selection since Dan Quayle in 1988.) Democrats immediately launched an offensive painting Romney-Ryan as "dangerous" to senior citizens who depend on Medicare, which Ryan has proposed replacing with a system offering people vouchers to buy private health insurance. Democrats also hammered Ryan for his opposition to abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and gun control. Will Ryan drum up votes for Romney... or Obama?
This was unquestionably a smart pick: Mitt Romney has "picked a running mate who could make him president," says Peter Morici at Newsday. Paul Ryan's experience on Capitol Hill "complements Romney's private sector experience wonderfully." Ryan's plan for Medicare will save it, not kill it. "If Romney delivers a compelling message on the economy and jobs and Ryan convinces seniors the ticket has answers to runaway Medicare spending that do not threaten them, the GOP candidates should be able to snag Florida, Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina," which could add up to the difference between victory and defeat.
"Paul Ryan, smart choice by a savvy executive"
Romney really shot himself in the foot: The conventional wisdom is that choosing Ryan was a shrewd move, says Alec MacGillis at The New Republic, because it will divert attention from Romney's Bain Capital years and his undisclosed tax returns. The trouble with that argument is that Ryan's budget plan, which would eliminate taxes on interest, capital gains, and dividends, would mean that "Romney would pay zero taxes" on his $20 million in annual income. "I'm pretty sure" Team Obama can get mileage out of that.
"Why Ryan mMakes Romney's tax problem even worse"
It all depends on who wins the spin war: The fight to define Ryan is on, say Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Between now and the end of their respective conventions, Republicans will pitch Ryan as a reformer with a plan to let seniors "keep their current Medicare" while giving "younger people more choices," while Democrats will paint him as the guy trying to dismantle the social safety net. Was the Ryan pick a "savvy strategy" or a "fizzled failure"? That depends on which definition sticks.
"The 25-day fight to define Paul Ryan"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- The best places to find love — and lust — according to science
- How a drafting error could doom Obama's carbon regulations
- Sex can't explain the culture war
- How the battle for religious freedom became a nonsensical free-for-all
- This simple hack for slicing cherry tomatoes will astound you
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How to save Meet the Press
- Boyhood's refreshingly unsentimental take on motherhood
Subscribe to the Week