Rep. Paul Ryan VP Choice Draws Criticism From Some Conservatives

Here -- anonymously, by his request -- is a critique of the choice by one of the country's most prominent and influential conservatives, who sent this analysis to close friends.
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House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. speaks during a campaign event for Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Monday, April 2, 2012, at a building supply store in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. speaks during a campaign event for Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Monday, April 2, 2012, at a building supply store in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Despite general cheer among conservatives, some in that camp are apoplectic at Mitt Romney's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, though they are reluctant to say so publicly.

Here -- anonymously, by his request -- is a critique of the choice by one of the country's most prominent and influential conservatives, who sent this analysis to close friends:

Here are some problems I see:

SAMENESS: It is amazing but true -- likeability and superficial impressions determine most elections. We know already Mitt is losing on this factor to Obama. Already the Obama camp has been successfully caricaturing Mitt as a rich elitist, out of touch with ordinary Americans. While Ryan, at first blush, comes across attractive and polished with a great personal story, his overall image seems to reinforce the Mitt stereotype. Both Mitt and Ryan come across as too polished and frankly somewhat detached. I heard a commentator on Fox today say that Mitt tapped Paul because they have the same love of DATA! See how many votes data gets you!

GOP strategists all talk to me about how Mitt surrounds himself with people who seem like him, a very homogenous group. Though in person Mitt connects and is quite likeable, his senior campaign staff is insular, arrogant and non-inclusive -- perhaps the weakest team ever assembled in modern presidential politics. Even Rupert Murdoch has tweeted out that Romney should fire his staff.

In my opinion, Romney would have done better to pick someone outside his "look" -- someone outside the box, like rising star [Marco] Rubio, or gritty, like [Chris] Christie. Jeb Bush would have been the strongest contender for VP because of his credentials and appeal, but he took himself out of running and pushed for Rubio.

ELECTORAL VOTES: If the point of this election is to win, I don't see how Ryan gets you ANY electoral votes. Romney won't win Wisconsin unless it's a landslide for him.

Meanwhile, Rubio would have secured Florida and moved some Hispanic voters. Florida wasn't in contention two months ago, but today Obama is leading there -- so securing it should have been a tactical priority. [Rob] Portman could have helped in Ohio, perhaps the most critical state in the election. So there is no electoral sense to the Ryan pick.

CONSERVATIVE BASE: With no clear electoral college rationale for picking Ryan, the talking heads this morning are grasping onto the fact that Romney secures his conservative base by picking Ryan.

Ryan doesn't really change Romney's standing with the conservative base, who plan to vote for him despite reservations.

Contrary to current wisdom, Ryan is not very popular with conservatives, though he is RESPECTED by them. A big difference here, put another way: Ryan is liked by the right but not considered charismatic.

Remember, Ryan also comes from the deficit hawk camp. Through all the years, deficit hawks have never succeeded in presidential politics. Instead, the conservative base is very animated by supply-side, pro-growth Republicans (think Reagan, Kemp, Gingrich, Steve Forbes). It is a positive vision that also resonates with both the Republican base and middle, swing voters -- those Reagan/Clinton Democrats who will decide this coming election. Ryan, who has made middle-class entitlements the bête noir of GOP policy, has chosen a different path from those of us who want to focus the GOP platform on tax cuts, lessening government regulations, while reforming and improving (not replacing) programs like Medicare.

BAGGAGE: Paul Ryan doesn't have the negative personal "baggage" that some other potential VPs may have had, but he does have policy baggage.

The first Ryan Plan called for a radical overhaul of Medicare, abolishing the federal program completely in favor of a state-administered program. Such a plan was so obviously untenable and politically disastrous that after passing Ryan Plan I, congressional Republicans woke up and passed a second Ryan Plan that keeps federal Medicare but offers a voucher program for those insured to opt out -- a far more palatable program. Still, Ryan and the GOP voted for the first Ryan plan, which was embraced by Mitt, and the GOP will have to live with that fact. My guess is that Ryan Plan I will cost the GOP 20 to 25 House seats at least, and perhaps the presidency.

Almost half the United States falls in two categories: Baby Boomer or senior citizen. Today, the only health insurance for the elderly is Medicare. Why would the Republican party propose abolishing it and turning it back to states? If I lived in Mississippi, even as a Republican, I wouldn't be too happy to hear the Republicans want to end my federal Medicare and have the state of Mississippi run it!

Both Ryan Plan I and Plan II were not smart. It should have been incumbent upon Obama to propose a budget, not the Republicans, especially with the GOP controlling just the House and having no chance of passing the plan. The Republicans should have been jumping up and down demanding Obama create a plan on how to fix the economy -- and asking why he decided to abandon Simpson-Bowles, the very panel he commissioned.

Anyone who has studied the 2010 exit polls knows that the GOP tsunami came entirely from senior voters, who came out in record numbers and overwhelmingly for the GOP because of Obamacare and $500 billion in Medicare cuts.

With that issue in our pocket, why take it out and throw it in the dumpster, ceding the high ground to the Democrats by giving them the gift of the Ryan plan?

I also think it's no coincidence that support for the Tea Party and the number of people who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters have collapsed since the Ryan Plan was first promulgated.

3 A.M. Call: Remember that Hillary ad criticizing Obama for not being ready to take that 3 a.m. crisis call a president may just have to answer?

There are some who believe American voters have a litmus test for vice president: They want a vice president who they believe can take that call as well, and be president. Perhaps 9/11 brought this point home to Americans. Obama's choice of Biden and Bush's choice of Cheney played into this very thinking.

Typically members of Congress -- especially those not holding a senior leadership position -- are not considered presidential timber. Ryan doesn't hold such a position. I think on the 3 a.m. call test Ryan falls short, whereas Rubio, though young, held the leadership position of Speaker in the Florida legislature and has filled the role of senator extremely well. Portman, [Bobby] Jindal, Christie and others would have passed the 3 a.m. snuff test. [Rudy] Giuliani would have been an outside-the-box choice for such a standard.

Concluding thoughts: I think Ryan is a good man. It's too early to say if he will be a repeat of Bill Miller in 1964. Today Ryan would have made a fine OMB Director or Treasury secretary in a Romney administration.

Vice president, at this moment, I don't see it. I believe when Ryan adds a top leadership job to his resume, like joining the Senate or becoming a governor, he would be presidential timber in the GOP. Today, in this election, he subtracts more than he adds.

This was supposed to be Mitt Romney's election to lose. Right now polls show he is losing. It's important to remember that Romney's top campaign staff were Charlie Crist's political staff. They took the most popular Republican governor in the U.S. and by the end of his first term, his campaign for Senate had not only crashed, Charlie Crist had to leave the Republican party! It was no surprise when I read in the New Republic that Mitt's chief strategist told folks he voted for Obama in 2008.

For those of us who want to see a President Romney, the most promising thing we have is the lack of enthusiasm for Obama on the left, coupled with his job performance. Oil prices are rising again, and I think gasoline prices are a good barometer of public perception about the economy.

Mitt Romney can still win this election. But Romney should go back to basics and offer the public a vision, several new ideas, that draw in those middle, independent voters who agree that Obama didn't get the job done in the first term as he promised he would and who now want a reason to vote for Romney.

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