Mitt Romney has selected his choice for Vice President, his running mate. But picking Congressman Paul Ryan will not save him from electoral defeat in November. Obama is 7 points ahead in the polls and will win. At one level I say this with sadness as I think Obama is awful. At another with disinterest as I also think Romney is pretty dreadful.
Let’s start with Paul Ryan. He is young and photogenic and best known for his plan to balance the budget. He describes himself as a devotee of libertarian goddess Ayn Rand in a desperate attempt to pick up the Ron Paul constituency. But this is desperate stuff. It will not work.
Those of us who think Ron Paul is the answer to America’s problems do so because he ( as a true Ayn Rand devotee) would repeal legislation which has suppressed civil liberties (notably the Patriot Act), would end foreign wars and by cutting defence spending (20% of Government spending) as well as spending elsewhere really could balance the budget.
I have read Karl Marx. That does not make me a Marxist. Paul Ryan has read Ayn Rand, that does not make him a libertarian. He supports the Patriot Act and other illiberal liberty crushing legislation. He actually wants to increase defence spending by even more than Obama does and thus to continue an interventionist foreign policy. Paul Ryan has consistently supported vast bailouts for bankers, the auto industry, indeed anyone who wanted a bailout. And given his commitment to more wars and more defence spending (plus his love of bailouts) his budget plans just do not stack up. As such I expect Ron Paul supporters to split equally between Obama, Romney/Ryan and Stay at home with the last the largest category.
But the US contest is not really about who is selected as the VP candidate. Unless that candidate can be depicted as mad (arguably Sarah Palin) or thick (arguably Sarah Palin and certainly Dan Quayle) they will not attract or scare off many voters. This is primarily a contest between the two candidates for President.
In policy terms I do not see a great difference. Neither will deal with the deficit. Both will carry on intervening militarily abroad. Neither gives a stuff about Civil Liberties. And so it is the question of who do you trust or empathise with more. Neither candidate is fit to wipe the shoes of Reagan or (in charisma terms) even Clinton. Obama is no more an ordinary American than the next guy who has never had a proper job in his life after graduating from a top school but he can sort of play that part. Mitt Romney: Swiss bank accounts, still incomplete disclosure of 2010 tax records, the horse with the $77,000 tax breaks? Do I have to go on?
Watching Romney on his recent European tour it was not the gaffes that struck me as they were not gaffes really. But the craven way he tried to talk his way out of them seemed unPresidential. And when meeting crowds he appeared like a rather nervous, vaguely camp undertaker. Obama would have pulled it off.
And so Obama is, right now, 7% ahead in the polls. There may be a mini Ryan bounce. There may be a bounce after the Republican convention although I would not bet on it if, as seems likely, it ends up not as a coronation by a united party but as an open display of why so many Republicans cannot stomach Mitt. But between now and November the Dems need simply keep talking about those tax returns and that horse and the gaping disconnect between Mitt and Main Street America will become ever more apparent.
Paul Ryan you are no Ron Paul. You and your boss will lose badly in November. Start bracing yourself for it.