Republican political professionals have been dutifully, even enthusiastically, singing the praises of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the man, Mitt Romney, who boldly tapped Ryan as his running mate, say Alexander Burns, Maggie Haberman, and Jonathan Martin at Politico. Well, "don't buy it." Once you get them off the record, there's "an unmistakable consensus" among Republican insiders that Ryan poses an unnecessary, possibly fatal risk for Romney. Here are five reasons the pros who run Republican elections are quietly panicking over Romney's VP pick:
1. Ryan embodies the most unpopular GOP policies
The "good news" about Romney tapping Ryan is that "this ticket now has a vision," one GOP strategist tells Politico. "The bad news is that vision is basically just a chart of numbers used to justify policies that are extremely unpopular." Romney now owns Ryan's plans to voucherize Medicare for anyone under 55, privatize Social Security, zero out most taxes for rich investors like Romney, and criminalize not only all abortion but maybe even in vitro fertilization — all political losers... and relatively mainstream GOP positions, says Laura Clawson at Daily Kos. "What's especially fun about the Ryan choice is that he's a problem for Republicans because he is the embodiment of their policies."
2. He alienates more voters than he entices
Lots of conservatives are very excited and energized by the Ryan pick — "Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch appear ecstatic about his elevation," says Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast. But the House GOP budget wonk also "has a long paper trail that could alienate moderate swing voters." Ryan's Medicare plan alone poses special dangers for Romney in senior-rich Florida, a must-win state. And Florida has another group Romney just threw out by tapping Ryan: Jews, says Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast. The GOP's big push to siphon off Jewish voters might have worked if Romney had stuck with his earlier fiscal and social moderation. "Indeed, were he still the Romney of a decade ago — pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights, and pro-universal health coverage — he might be on his way to grabbing 40 percent of the Jewish vote. But any trace of that Romney died when he chose Ryan. The race for the American Jewish vote is now probably over," and Obama won by default.
3. Americans hate Congress, and Ryan ties Romney to it
Before picking Ryan, "Romney had run an outsider campaign and kept a healthy distance from a historically unpopular Congress," says Russell Berman at The Hill. Now, he's "tied inextricably to congressional Republicans." We don't know yet "whether voters' disdain for Congress will in any way rub off on their assessments of Ryan," says Gallup pollster Frank Newport. But it can't be good for Team Romney that in the latest Gallup poll, a historically low 10 percent approve of Congress, versus 83 percent who disapprove.
4. Ryan makes some tough congressional races even tougher
There are two groups of Republican operatives anonymously trashing Ryan, says Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog: One faction fears he will help lead Romney to defeat and the other "believe[s] Ryan will hurt the party up and down the ballot." GOP House and Senate candidates, especially those in tight races, just "don't know how to run with the 'kill Medicare' guy near the top of the ballot," and many of them are conspicuously distancing themselves from Ryan. As one top GOP consultant tells Politico, the addition of Ryan is "very not helpful down ballot — very."
5. "GOP pros" are just known to panic for no good reason
This type of off-record griping is "an ancient Washington game" among political operatives, says Rick Moran at American Thinker. "The 'I told you so' pros" won't get stung if Romney wins, and if he loses they can "point at this piece — and others like it down the road — and claim prescience." In fact, "I'm reassured — indeed, encouraged — indeed, buoyed!" by the GOP hacks trash-talking Ryan, says William Kristol at The Weekly Standard. The "pseudo-sophisticated conventional wisdom" from these cowards is "a terrific contrarian indicator" of the state of the race: "When 'GOP pros' are most full of fear and apprehension about Republican prospects — for example, Reagan in 1980, Gingrich in 1994, and the Tea Party in 2010 — Republicans tend to do well."