I will start this post out with the disclaimer that I am just a dumbass with a blog, noodling on things that interest me.
After Mitt Romney became the presumptive Republican nominee, I became very curious about who he would select as his running mate, and am surprised that he picked Paul Ryan. Picking Ryan doesn’t make any sense to me because, as far as I can tell, Ryan will primarily appeal to folks who would have voted for Romney anyway. So, from that perspective, it seems to me that picking Ryan was ‘preaching to the choir’, in a sense.
Also, it seems to me that if the selection of Ryan is going to have any impact at all, it will be to alienate swing voters, who tend to be moderate. Based on current polling numbers it seems that Romney needs as many of those voters as he can get.
So, why would Romney pick such a polarizing running mate? I offer five theories below, in order of likelihood from least to most (with a bonus sixth theory that is probably the most likely of all):
Theory #1: Romney doesn’t want to win, and has picked a running mate that will insure that he loses.
It is not possible for me to know why Romney wouldn’t want to win, and there is no evidence of it that I’m aware of (other than his selection of Ryan). But, because he has picked a running mate that I think he knows will hurt his chances, we have to at least consider this option. I speculated along these same lines in 2008 when McCain picked Sarah Palin.
Theory #2: Romney knows that he is going to win, so he picked whoever he damn well pleased.
How could Romney *know* he’s going to win? It could be that he has an ace up his sleeve that he knows will be devastating enough to win the election (dirt on Obama, etc). It could also be that there is some currently-hidden aspect of Ryan that will emerge and swing the election for him. It could also be that the power brokers have arranged things such that a win for Romney is the most likely thing. In any case, if Romney felt supremely confident that he was going to win regardless of his selection of running mate, he may have gone ahead and selected the running mate who will most boldly represent the Republican strategy, and that’s Ryan.
Theory #3: Romney knows that he isn’t going to win, and so picked a running mate for politically expedient purposes.
In this scenario, Romney has realized that there’s no way he can win for whatever reason (polling numbers, tax return issue, etc), and so he picked his running mate in order to maximize whatever positives there are that can be gleaned from a losing presidential bid. For example, it may be that the Republicans wanted Ryan to get some national press, and have the opportunity to present his budget proposal more directly and clearly to a more attentive audience than has previously been possible. Running on the presidential ticket will give Ryan a lot of exposure, and perhaps groom him for future runs (Senate, Vice President, maybe President, even?).
Theory #4: None of the acceptable potential candidates said ‘yes’.
As with all recent elections, there was a list of potential running mates for Romney, which at times was rumored to include Colin Powell, Paul Ryan, Condoleezza Rice, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman, and Michele Bachmann, among others. Several said no very publicly (e.g. Powell, Rice), some were (I hope) too unacceptable (e.g. Bachmann), and that left Romney with a short list of candidates who were both acceptable and who also said ‘yes’. It could be that the resulting list had only one name on it – Paul Ryan.
Theory #5: Romney is throwing a haymaker.
It could be that Romney knows that he’s being outboxed and losing the fight on points, and that only a knockout punch can win the fight for him at this point. Picking a safe, moderate running mate would have been a jab that didn’t knock anybody out, so he’s going with the low-percentage knockout punch, knowing that if he misses, he would have lost anyway, but at least this gives him a fighting chance to go down swinging.
Bonus Theory #6: Dumbasses with blogs don’t understand the question.
This is the most likely scenario, which is that I don’t have enough understanding to realize why the selection of Ryan makes sense. I have no credentials in this area, other than having been a lifelong resident of and intermittent voter in the United States.
So, there you go, five theories (and a bonus theory) about Romney’s selection of Ryan. I’ll be watching the polls closely to see the effect of Romney naming Ryan as his running mate. Or, to state it more accurately, I’ll be interested to see Nate Silver’s analysis of the polls over at his FiveThirtyEight blog. His early analysis doesn’t show much impact from Ryan being named, but it’s still early in the game.
If I were a betting man, my money would be on Obama at this point. We’re three months from the election, so we’re heading into Double Jeopardy, where the scores can really change, so things could still swing in either direction. However, I think the selection of Paul Ryan was a risky one, and is likely to cost Mitt Romney any chance he had at winning in November.