Whether you like him or not, whether you agree with his policies or not, Barack Obama is a master politician and campaigner. Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Funk Machine was not prepared for Obama’s cooler than ice and highly effective ground campaign. He made Hillary look like a loon, he made McCain look like an out of touch geezer and McCain responded by picking a nutjob from the Arctic as his running mate. And up until this weekend, Romney looked like he was going to run an aggressive, but focused and level-headed campaign against Obama…
But that was before he announced Saturday morning he had picked Wisconsin senator Paul Ryan as his running mate.
That was when Romney blinked.
For decades, the good VP-picking advice was “Above all, do no harm”, and that’s exactly what Obama did when he picked Biden in 2008. Sure, Biden may go off script on occasion and make some doofy remark, but usually people just roll their eyes when it happens and don’t make much of it. Otherwise, Biden is a perfectly neutral pick. A hard working, blue collar-ish white guy who loves his family and loves America and has never really done anything or said anything too outlandish.
If I were a betting man, I would have put my money on Marco Rubio. He’s from a heavily populated swing state (Florida), he’s fairly quiet and low key and like Biden, doesn’t have a well-known public record of going too far in one direction or the other. He’s smart, he’s a good campaigner and as an added bonus, he would be the first Latino-American on a major party ticket and could possibly (maybe) peel away a few Hispanic voters.
And yet Romney went with the 2012 short list version of Sarah Palin. Okay, so Paul Ryan isn’t quite as bad as Sarah Palin, but it’s close. Paul Ryan is a polarizing figure, popular with the Tea Party wing of the GOP and architect of the shot down, shat all over, chewed up and spit out Trickle Down Economics 2.0 Republican budget proposal last year that would have slashed the holy bloody shit out of Medicare and Medicaid, it would have put thousands of federal employees out of a job, given even bigger tax cuts to the wealthy and in the opinion of many, would have caused the current slow but steady economy recovery to completely stall out in the middle of a busy highway.
And there was absolutely no reason for Romney to have picked a champion of the Tea Party bloc. They would have come out to vote against Obama anyway. Many might have had to grit their teeth while filling in the bubble for Romney, but they would have done it. What Romney needed was someone without too much baggage and would let him keep center stage, but that’s not the direction he chose. The problem for Romney is not seeming too centrist, because at this point, many diehard Republicans would vote for anyone but Obama, but turning off undecided moderates. He already had some moderate support, support that now may change their mind.
Some have called Romney’s VP pick “bold” and “gutsy”, but you don’t use your VP pick to try and better your hand. I can’t imagine this will work out well for Romney at all. At least not against a man who is the Kasparov of American political campaigning. What Hillary Clinton and John McCain learned is that Obama does not make mistakes in his campaigns. You may think your 9.9 is good enough against Obama, but it’s not. He stays laser-focused and cool and collected under any circumstance and waits for the other person to slip up. And that could be exactly what Romney just did.
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