Just one week ago GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, tapped Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. The announcement ended growing speculation on his choice and slowed the increasingly vicious attacks from team Obama which were drowning out any chance of Romney’s positive economic message being heard above the din. A great deal has happened during the ensuing week.
First, the timing of the announcement has been described as either fortuitous or clever. ‘Fortuitous’ because it coincided with a growing outrage due to the murderer ad claim (and associated lies). The nexus of a rising discomfort with the divisive/ugly tactics used by a sitting President and the ‘murderer’ ad, which had been substantially ignored by the MSM, began to create a compelling narrative favorable to Romney. Further, Obama’s multiple “D” strategy of deceive, distract, distort, demonize, denigrate, divide, and dissemble was sadly working. Americans were paying little attention to the issues, i.e. an abysmal economy, high unemployment, suffocating deficits, incredible national debt, declining family net worth, increasing poverty and a disastrous real estate market. Some battleground state polling (e.g. Ohio & Wisconsin) were beginning to show Romney’s support marginally wilting due in part to the relentless negative fusillade. However, the germination of a backlash was occurring and it began to jolt the Obama campaign.
‘Clever’ because Paul Ryan represented an aggressive and surprising pick. The timing gave Romney the weekend to begin defining his pick in a positive light as he simultaneously, with the help of surrogates, a few Democrats, and a growing group in the press, delved more deeply into the ‘killer’ charge and others which included racist, felon and tax cheat. The Obama team and other Democrats, both possibly caught by surprise and having to respond to the growing ‘murderer’ backlash, seemed to struggle with effective tactics to counter Congressman Ryan.
Second, Governor Romney’s allies surfaced video tapes of Erskine Bowles, the Democratic Co-Chair, of Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility praising the Ryan budget. Bowles’ comments were made on Sept 8, 2011 to a University of North Carolina audience. Former President Bill Clinton also encouraged Ryan to continue his efforts to reduce/control the deficit and entitlement programs in an off the record conversation captured at a Pete Peterson Foundation event. Yet the most ironic video clip was a discourse by President Obama touting Ryan and the Ryan Budget as, “a serious proposal. I've read it. I can tell you what's in it. And there's some ideas in there that I would agree with but there’s some ideas we should have a healthy debate about because I don’t agree with them.” The “healthy debate” phrase will haunt and slow this president’s demonization of Ryan. Finally, the Republican base, already motivated to defeat Obama, became even more motivated since Ryan is seen as a “true” conservative with strong pro-life credentials. Romney found himself finally running with a much larger group of committed supporters. To quote Churchill, “There is at least one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is to fight without them.” Romney was clearly energized and in a position to present his plans with articulate help…it was now 2 on 2.
Third, scandals (Fast & Furious, Homeland Security sex discrimination law suits, & the White House security leaks debate etc.) continued to receive attention from the press. Soaring gas prices elevated the public’s reassessment of the Obama energy strategy or lack thereof. A discussion of Medicare coupled with Obamacare, the much disliked/derided Obama plan, also began to create headlines. The discussion pitted the President’s lack of a plan against a plan created by Paul Ryan and Oregon Democrat Senator Ron Wyden to preserve Medicare which has Romney’s full support. The back and forth highlighted the removal of $716 billion from Medicare to ‘finance’ Obamacare which places senior healthcare in the hands of unelected government bureaucrats…and will possibly lead to rationing. Taken together these issues have assisted the Romney/Ryan ticket in gaining traction and modest control of the dialogue to date. But the ‘gift that keeps on giving’, Vice President, Joe Biden, made a comment which was interpreted as racist and demeaning even in the Black community. Within hours he piled gaffe on gaffe with a statement he was in one state when actually in another, and also made reference to the wrong ‘century’. These and other pronouncements brought into question his fitness for the Vice Presidency. More importantly Biden’s statements touched off a divisive debate within the Democrat party discussing whether he should be replaced. The discussion ended when the President’s press secretary emphatically insisted there would be no change in the ticket. The debate was resurrected almost immediately when writer Edward Klein, author of “The Amateur”, claimed his White House sources said the VP position had been recently offered to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Fourth, polling data began emerging that the Romney/Ryan ticket was receiving a bump in a wide range of polls. The polls included Rasmussen, Gallup, Purple Strategies (a bipartisan battleground state poll), Quinnipiac, John Zogby and Pew to cite some of those released on or before Friday August 17. Two cautions bear mention…the released poll data is based on just 2, at most 3 days of data after the selection was made; longer term polling will be much more accurate. The press also began speculating on the size of the ‘bump’ which could or should happen. The range of ‘bumps’ spanned 3-11 percentage points. Polling bumps have become lower in magnitude with each successive national election since 2000. A ‘bump’ in the 2-4 percentage point range might be a good indicator for the Romney/Ryan team, but would still be highly speculative. A safer assumption might be a change in direction of the polling could be a more meaningful predictor of a successful kickoff of the Romney/Ryan team. A preliminary polling survey surfaces only one “outlier”, a Pew poll. The Pew poll (dated 8-13-12) states that seniors strongly disapprove of the Ryan Medicare plan by 51% verses 43% who approve. All other notable polls indicate growing approval of the Romney/Ryan philosophy, increasingly positive views of the Republican team and a heightened understanding of the merits of their economic proposals and entitlement strategies. Some of the hard copy accompanying the poll results grudgingly concede the featured poll's data and conclusions. One newspaper in particular, The Miami Herald, is a poster board for liberal media bias in its poll related narrative.
Rasmussen published a poll on August 18 that put Romney in the lead nationally by 4% (LV daily approval poll). Maybe more telling is a Gallup poll published on August 16 showing appreciable disapproval of Obama’s economic management, budgets, and deficit performance. On all the issues the metrics are quite negative for Obama; 60% disapprove of his economic policies and 64% are negative toward his budget. Job creation shows a gap of over 20% negative between bad and good performance on job creation. Another illuminating poll from August 16 signals seniors in Florida fear Obama’s Medicare plan more than the Romney/Ryan plan.
In summary the evidence spells a successful first week roll-out of the Romney/Ryan team, albeit over an intense 7 days. Various interpretations can be made of the week’s activity and consequences depending on perspective. Clearly a broader range of serious issues is now being presented to the American people. The issues in focus now span the need for an economic revival with an emphasis on job creation, spending control and thus deficit control, and an adult conversation relative to the exploding costs of entitlement programs such as Medicare. An articulate, consistent and balanced discussion in these areas by the Romney/Ryan team will build a majority voting block over time and send Obama and company back to Chicago. Yes a solid roll-out.