Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan

Either it's a great bluff, or Paul Ryan will be announced as Mitt Romney's running mate in the morning. I blogged on it over at Post Partisan...pretty much what you would expect I would say, if you've been reading me on Veepstakes for the last several months.

I'm sure I'll be writing more soon, here or elsewhere, but not certain that I'll have anything tomorrow beyond "what mattered?", so consider this a comment thread for whatever y'all have on Ryan. I'll toss in a couple of links: here's Ezra Klein and here's Ryan Lizza, who both have exactly the kind of take on it that I'm dissenting from (although I agree with Lizza's take on Ryan himself and very much like his recent excellent profile of Ryan, and I certainly agree with Klein's view of the Ryan budget, especially the emphasis on the long-term budget).

42 comments:

  1. Choosing Paul Ryan would be risky, but it's a smart risk. Among Romney's more serious problems is that while he wants to make this an election about the economy, he doesn't really have a hook in Obama on that issue since his own economic remedies aren't really clear. Republicans, however, retain credibility with the public on the issues of "spending" and "entitlement reform." I use the quotes because the nature of the issue has a lot to do with how it's phrased. I think Romney's people correctly believe that his best chance to take control of the economy issue is to try to make the election focus more on "spending" and "entitlement reform" There is absolutely no doubt that Paul Ryan will help the messaging in this regard.

    Also, the Beltway media doesn't like to question Ryan's credibility. They like to write stories about how he says things that are controversial, but at least he's tryin' to help us get over our unsustainable addiction to health care and retirement!

    Romney is going to run as an underdog who espouses politically unpopular but prudent fiscal ideas.

    That'll win them a news cycle or two, but is it enough to win the race? I really doubt it, but we'll see.

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    1. The media loves "entitlement reform" so that is a positive in terms of picking Ryan. But, the voting public isn't quite so in love with the concept -- and that is a political negative.

      I know that the cynical exemption of those 55 and older (a demographic that has high voting participation levels and is increasingly Republican-leaning) is designed to protect Republicans politically from serious fall out from their plans to turn Medicare into a voucher system and to privatize Social Security into something much more expensive and much less secure -- but, younger people know that they will get old someday too, that they will have to make up for any financial and security losses their currently under-55 elders may experience from these changes in the future, and, that, for man, many years to come, they will be footing the bill for the platinum level benefits Republicans are promising the eldest among us -- benefits that they, and perhaps their parents, will not have available to them when they need them.

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    2. Oh, I'm definitely with you on your point that the public dislikes the facts of "entitlement reform" much less than the idea of it that comes from the Beltway press. But it's dangerous to underestimate the extent to which events are shaped by the story that comes from the media. For the next few months, the public is going to be soaked in "political reporting" that are little more than gentile opinion pieces that argue the idea that the masses must sacrifice their part of the social contract and that politicians who acknowledge this are bold, prudent, and serious.

      I disagree with you that the under 55 crowd understands it's stake in the social contract. I actually think the center-left has done a genuinely terrible job of educating people on that point.

      Now, that said, I still don't think Ryan helps Romeny win this thing. But it still gins up conservative donors and probably keeps the Right from sitting out the election in a big way if the Romney effort starts to go South in the fall.

      Another side of this that is going to become more important in the future is the extent to which the American Right has invested in radical libertarianism, one of the most unpopular political theories in the mainstream right now.

      I think we may realize at some point that the Republicans hurt themselves by opposing campaign finance reform. By allowing money to flow through politics, they may have allowed their political operation to be purchased by some of the craziest rich people.

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  2. Great, apparently they decided that "Game Change" needed a sequel ("Game Change II: Back to the Minors"?). It says a lot about the GOP's difficulties at the presidential level that they've gone with weak nominees and risky VP picks two election cycles in a row now.

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  3. So I guess there are photos of Portman in drag or killing a puppy or something out there?

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  5. from JB's post:

    "Barack Obama was going to hit Mitt Romney hard on Medicare and the rest of the Ryan budget (which is, in fact, a radical document which puts the Republicans behind any number of highly unpopular positions), but it’s a mistake to believe that having Ryan on the ticket will necessarily make that worse."

    Without Ryan Romney had an option of backing off of the most unpopular parts of the Ryan budget. Having Ryan on the ticket makes exercising that option a lot harder. It takes away room to maneuver.

    Voters don't much care about all but egregious veep choices. That will likely be true here. But if Obama's coming attacks stick that is a policy dispute. Ryan could then indirectly have an bigger than usual effect. Veeps are not usually policy poster boys. Ryan is.

    Who knows, maybe Romney is being crafty and Ryan has agreed to backpedal on his own plan if asked. I can see that working to immunize Romney.

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    1. I think Romney realized the far right base wasn't going to let him back off of their most radical positions. Any slight movement in that direction raised a bitter hue and cry. Given that, it was probably a good move to pick Ryan. Romney's no more stuck with having to run from the far right than he would be without him -- but the base will be quite a bit happier with him while he does so.

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  6. This is a brilliant pick, because it elevates Ryan to be a contender in 2016 or 2020 (depending on whether Romney wins). While I agree that his lack of private-sector experience is troubling, he is otherwise ideal.

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    1. Yes, losing as a VP candidate has indeed worked wonders for past losers.

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    2. Worked well for Palin and Dole.

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    3. Some losing vice-presidential candidates who eventually got their party's nomination for the presidency: Franklin D. Roosevelt (but only after twelve years), Walter Mondale (though admittedly there is a difference between losing the first time out and losing as an incumbent VP), and Bob Dole (after twenty years).

      I think Ryan's chances of getting the GOP nomination in 2016 are quite good if Romney loses. It is simply an article of faith among conservatives (who now completely dominate the GOP) that a conservative canot fail--he can only be failed. If Romney-Ryan loses, it will be Romney's fault--such will be the conservative party line. And in itself it will not be wrong, only in the assumption that without Ryan Romney would have lost worse...

      Palin is not really on point. It was not her being part of a losing ticket in 2008 that doomed her chances of getting the nomination in 2012. It was that she didn't seem *serious* enough, seemed too much a would-be reality TV star. By contrast, Ryan will always be seen (especially by the mainstream media) as "serious" and wonky, no matter how many holes experts can poke in his economic assumptions.

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  7. Ryan has little experience, hasn't been vetted at the national or even the state level, and has a patently fraudulent and extremely radical economic plan. This pick shows that Romney is more concerned about getting the votes of even hard core conservative Republicans than he is about winning the Presidency. Barring a dramatic economic downturn or other unpredictable event, this should now be an easy win for Obama probably more like to Clinton in '96 than Bush in '04.

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  8. This is far too flighty for the erudite comments here, but my first reaction was: Romney's lucky he's a Republican and not facing the Republican media machine as the opposition candidate.

    I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to say the words "Romney-Ryan" without resorting to a sing-songy 'RUHM-neh-RY-un' that sounds a bit like a ringleader announcing the next act at the circus.

    If Romney were a liberal, I suspect your AM radio airwaves might have spent three months having a more sing-song feel, like their cousins over at FM.

    I guess at least its a bit better than Romney-Rubio, who if I'm not mistaken is that exciting young Timberwolves point guard, playing for the basketball gold medal against Team USA tomorrow.

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    1. CORRECTION: Chalk it up to sloppy posting, but obviously, as with the veepstakes, Rubio is out for the Olympics.

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  9. BTW - the Republican ticket now features two fellows, one of whom made a fortune exploiting, for personal gain, the "inefficiency" of firms committing the cardinal American sin of employing too many people, and the other, a trust fund baby (flyover country style) who, per his demographic, never actually held a job, but nevertheless has a fetishistic love for - you guessed it - Ayn Rand.

    Liberals, if you can't beat these guys, under any conditions, I don't know if I'd take much comfort in attributing that to the "rules" of elections.

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    1. Overclarifying that last: if you're a trust fund baby, and you've never actually done or achieved anything of personal merit, than - really - by definition

      you are not John Galt.

      Thinking otherwise? Man. Ryan may be nuttier than Palin, which is no small accomplishment.

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  10. This pick also has the effect of making the election more British-like. Ryan isn't so much a candidate as a party manifesto, and in picking him Romney is going beyond endorsing that manifesto; he's seeking a mandate to implement it whole in parliamentary fashion. So Obama's job now is to make that clear to voters.

    Another interesting point is that Ryan represents the plutocratic rather than the religious-right tendency in the GOP. (Do we even know his position on the End Times?!) Romney obviously does too, so this ticket does for plutocrats what Bush-Cheney did for oil men. (And plutocrats.)

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  11. People say that Ryan is an effective politician because he's been elected seven times from a district that is not particularly conservative. Of course, once you're in, getting reelected to Congress isn't the most difficult task. But I just heard someone on TV point out that it's a rural district that doesn't have a lot of media. Before Ryan's wave of national media attention, which is all since the last election, a lot of his constituents really didn't know his positions on issues. This guy was saying Ryan's gotten much more hostility at town-hall meetings since the last election. (I think this is another example that contradicts Tip O'Neill's famous phrase, "All politics is local." People focus much more on national politics. The press devotes far more attention to national politics. I don't think most people even know who their local representatives are.)

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    1. Of course, either way, he'll be out of the House now.

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    2. Interesting info there, Scott. I've always thought "All politics is local" was one of the dumber old sayings, along with "There are no second acts in American lives" -- seemingly profound observations whose only flaw is that they're constantly being disproven. Looks like we're about to see that happen again.

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  12. As a conservative Republican, I think it is a weak pick. The Republican ticket needs to win white voters over 55 by something like a 62-37 or 63-36 margin to win the election, given strong minority support for Obama and likely at least a narrow Obama win among white voters under 30. Ryan is too far out front on changing Medicare for this constituency, and if the Republican margin among white voters over 55 fall to 55-44, we could lose by a 2008 style 53-46 margin overall and possibly lose the House as well as fail to take over the Senate. I favored Portman as a steady, experienced voice who would do the ticket no harm outside Ohio and perhaps boost Romney by 1% or 2% in the crucial swing state of Ohio. Practical fiscal conservatism means stopping new spending programs and limiting increases in existing programs to the inflation rate plus the population growth rate. In the long run, that reduces federal spending as a percentage of GDP, because it does not allow the federal budget to grow with real growth in the private economy. Taking away existing entitlements from older voters who have paid into the Social Security and Medicare systems their entire lives is not the route to victory for a center-right party. Throughout the world, in electoral democracies, successful center-right parties win the support of middle-aged and elderly voters.

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    1. You say "Practical fiscal conservatism means stopping new spending programs and limiting increases in existing programs to the inflation rate plus the population growth rate." Yet you don't seem to notice that the current Medicare program has no mechanism for doing that.

      Ryan has provided that mechanism while no one else in the GOP has a proposal. I'm not sure how you call yourself a conservative Republican, and raise these issues without some suggestion of how to accomplish what you propose. However, I notice your focus in the demographics needed to win, not what is needed to solve problems.

      By the way, I'm not a strong supporter of Ryan's Medicare proposal, but actually proposals for reining in Medicare spending are thin on the ground. You have to look at the Ryan plan versus the alternatives. (My preference is to use the best science to recommend cost-efficient care, and Medicare pays only for that, not for the kitchen sink.)

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    2. MP - I agree with anon about the politics, but you're right on the policy. The interesting thing about Ryan's Medicare reform is that it places more of the financial burden on middle and upper-income recipients and focuses the program more on just helping the poor. Democrats generally don't like this idea because they worry that entitlements will lose their political advantage if they come to be seen as being like welfare.

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    3. @Couves, Dems have that concern with good reason, I think. Services for poorer people often get squeezed, maybe not so much as the federal level yet, but often at the local level.

      But a bigger concern for me if the growth in health care spending. At first I thought Ryan's voucher idea for Medicare was terrible, but I changed my mind. At this points, it's not my favorite option, but it's better than the status quo (endlessly increasing Medicare spending).

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  13. It just feels like, at the core, the Romney team and the whole party really cant believe that Americans care about what we care about. They must have pollsters who tell them that theres all this anxiety about having enough money in retirement, having enough money to make itthroughthe week. Romney must have a guy who tells him, using actual data, that Americanshave almost zero trust in Wall Street and banks and coorate interests. How do they think that they can ignore those elemens of public sentiment? Its hard for me to imagine that Romneygets even a bouncein the polls from Ryan... no oneknows who he isand within moments of first hearing his name youre going to hear "controversial plan to changeMedicare" (and thats only if Romney is lucky. just as often people will hear "controversial plan to end Medicare as we know it."). Does that information do anything to make the average American who is primarily (almost solely) concerned about their own economic future feel confident in Romneys leadership?

    In any case, I see what JB is saying about this not mattering past a few weeks, but there being no upside. In a larger sense, though, I think this really illustrates how tone-deaf and clueless the Romney team is.

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  14. I have in the past suggested that Rupert Murdoch would dictate key personnel decisions in the Romney campaign, but this is ridiculous.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443404004577577190186374230.html

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  15. I like a lot of the policy work Ryan has done, but the descriptions of him as being a libertarian are silly. He may be able to quote from Hayek, but that doesn't change the fact that he has the voting record of a typical House Republican.

    I have a feeling Romney chose Ryan because he connects with him -- they both have a very analytical leadership style.

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  16. Romney can't win if conservatives scorn him, and it appeared like they'd started to do so. If he'd chosen Rubio, it probably would have wrecked any chance he had to win, as that would have completed the conservative scorning cycle. And Pawlenty and Portman provide Romney almost nothing.

    Ryan was the only possible positive game changer for Romney, and give him credit, he recognized that. And he appears to get along with the guy, and the Romney staff and Ryan's will get along well, I'd predict. Contrast that with the potential chaos a Hillary nomination would have brought on in 2008, for example, even though she was the obvious choice for VP that year. And Palin meshed with the Mccainiacs like oil and water. Dole and Kemp were not a good mix in 1996, despite Kemp being a solid team player. Neither were Dukakis and Bentsen in 1988, and Kerry was going to be a difficult pairing for anybody in 2004. Team chemistry is important.

    Plus, Ryan is going to get Obama off his game, as he's done previously. Obama doesn't like to be confronted, clearly. Romney is exactly what Obama wanted to run against, but Ryan sure isn't.

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  17. I'm gonna follow CSH and post tongue in cheek on matters superficial:

    Paul Ryan is a stone fox. (I believe I was first familiarized with him through some kind of "political hotties" list, way back in 2009.) I'm curious as to the amount of time media, bloggers, party actors, and entertainers will consider it appropriate to spend dealing with this issue. I'm presuming that it will completely dominate most coverage of him. Magazines will discover the exotic glamor of semi-rural Wisconsin, the RNC will spend $150,000 on nice clothing for him, pundits will be confessing to getting starbursts every time he winks on TV. Other pundits will argue that his appearance is too distracting for him to be any kind of a politician -- still others that what men want in a politician is for someone to be of the same gender as they are, and therefore that he has the potential to win over a lot of Democratic men, especially suburban middle class men -- no article about him will fail to mention, generally right up top, some past occasion on which he's been recognized for his attractiveness -- and, of course, lots of seemingly decent and polite people will suddenly think it's okay to refer to him as "Cheesehead Ken" or whatever epithet strikes them as best combining the thrill of exotic locales, sarcastic contempt for any distinctively regional cultural elements he might manifest, and sexual objectification. This will provoke weird, lustful snark from conservatives who say Democrats just can't stand the fact that he's a real man, a man who can handle a gun and isn't afraid to let you know it.

    Oh, yes, and the names and foibles of his wife and children will be open season, because, well, after all, that's the best way to get to know him, isn't it? -- since his wife and children constitute the primary context of his existence.

    You think?

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    1. Some of the un-parallels with Palin you're alluding to here, classicist, have good explanations besides the undeniable sexism of the media and the general culture:

      > Palin herself played up the "hockey mom" angle, actively foregrounding her supermothering as a qualification for office (or at least as point of connection with average voters).

      > Had she wanted to present herself as a wonky obsessive over federal budget policy, or any policy, she could have done that. She was presented and initially accepted as some kind of expert on energy policy, until it turned out that she didn't know energy policy either. She didn't know or care about policy, period; she just wanted to be a star. The media discovered that fact, they didn't create it.

      > The RNC probably will spring for some pretty fine suits for our Mr. Ryan. He may not try to buy up Niemann-Marcus on their dime, but if so, that would be an objective(ist?) difference between him and Caribou Bar.... uh, I mean him and Palin, not the result of sexist coverage or cultural reception.

      > Alaska actually DOES have exotic glamor. Nothing against Greater Kenosha-Racine, but we'd had national candidates from the rural Midwest before; Palin was the first one from the Last Frontier.

      > I don't know about starbursts, but I didn't get them from Palin either. I don't swing that way (to the right, I mean). It wouldn't surprise me, though, if there were a certain Beatlemania vibe going down when Ryan is introduced at the RNC.

      Having said all that, I agree that the political situation and logic driving this pick are remarkably similar to those that gave us Palin, and in a perfectly just world, the voters would receive both with equal contempt. We shall see!

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  18. JB,

    I disagree with your claim that the Medicare issue won't make more of an electoral difference with Ryan on the ticket. It has nothing to do with "narrative" (whatever that means), but with increased media attention. As Nate Silver pointed out, "Mr. Ryan's controversial budget, which polls poorly, will obviously get much more attention than it had previously." That strikes me as a loser for Republicans. Had Romney picked someone else, the Democrats would certainly have continued to hit hard on the Medicare issue, and I believe the strategy would have met with some success--but it could easily have been drowned out by other matters. Now, that's much less likely to occur.

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    1. Yeah, I disagree with Nate and just about everyone else about this.

      I will say that Ryan will generate more attention to Medicare (and the Ryan budget generally) for the first week than would have been the case otherwise. But after that, I disagree, and I don't think what people focus on in mid-August matters much.

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    2. From what I understand your position is that Romney was already going to have to deal with his support of the Ryan plan, no matter if Ryan was on the ticket or not. And the Obama attacks claiming Romney wants to "end Medicare as we know it" would have been as brutal and potentially politically damaging no matter what. Your point about the Ryan pick having more a potential downside than upside was that Ryan hasn't been a national figure yet, and therefore it's unknown whether or not he'll be any good at it. Is that correct?

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    3. Yeah, that's pretty much it, with "good at it" understood broadly.

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    4. On the subject of whether Ryan's alleged political skills will translate to a national audience or not, I read a politico article today about how some conservative group is passing around a video of Ryan blasting Obama for being "Bismarkian" (or something). Politico and the conservative group pushing the video seemed to believe that it was a really effective attack for some reason... I read it several times and looked up Bismark on Wikipedia to try and figure out what Ryan was talking about. Is this another example of conservatives mistaking their weird cultish mythology for policy positions? Do conservatives really think that a 54-year-old unemployed single mother with two unemployed teenage kids facing foreclosure in Las Vegas or Denver or somewhere in "swing land" will be moved by the invocation of a German political figure from the 1800s (or whenever)? Voters are going to listen to Ryan talk about John Galt and Bismark and Nathan Hale, and suddenly realize that Medicare and middle class tax breaks are morally evil? Am I missing something, or is the Republican Party really, actually committing suicide?

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    5. I think the Republicans are not committing suicide for two main reasons:

      1. Ryan unquestionably gets their side excitied. I think we were three or four more nationals polls showing Obama with a huge lead before they started to tune out the election.

      2. Ryan helps them raise tons of money since their rainmakers are really into his libertarian stuff.

      3. Many Republicans see Ryan as the future of the party- Quiet on the social issues, not really a big neo-con, but a major salesman of the "indvidual liberty = no government intervention in society at all" and "balanced budget = first priorty" ideas.

      4. Romney needed someone who was more comfortable on the stump and serves as a good attack dog. Ryan gives him that for sure.

      I think the problem for the GOP here is that while they have a GREAT P.R. operation, they don't really understand society all that well and I think they have vastly overestimate the appeal of the items I describe in number 3. They also misunderstand what will happen to their organization by making those items central to their brand. They will attract the most out-of-touch, unethical, and -frankly- crazy people to their party.

      But I think for now, Ryan in the VP slot is a good move to hit reset on a campaign that was going nowhere.

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    6. A lot of this goes back to the discussion about "epistemic closure" on the right. In 2010, JB proposed that a good test case of whether GOP leadership really is mired in this condition was how they reacted to a possible Palin candidacy. They apparently failed this test--in 2011, much of the GOP and conservative media seemed to turn against Palin.

      Still, I've been astonished at the GOP's eagerness to do things that are so obviously not in their electoral interests, starting with the near-unanimous passage of Ryan's budget plan in 2011. Maybe they were emboldened by the 2010 landslide. Or maybe they just think their strategy is high-risk, high-reward for implementing policies they care about. I don't know for sure, but I do suspect there is some genuine epistemic closure among many elected GOP officials and operatives, and that it isn't simply all rhetoric to appease the base--that they actually have come to believe some of their BS.

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    7. @PAPolitico I think you underestimate the potential dampening effect the Ryan plan might have on Republican enthusiasm. Consider the GOP response to the Ryan selection: all the conservative talking heads are excited, full of hyperbole, etc. All the GOP strategists are making muted, pained sounds. The strategists know like the Dem strategists know that when Romney is more firmly tied to a policy platform that endangers benefits and popular programs, Romney is very likely going to take on a lot of water.

      Think about it in very straightforward terms: when have voters voted in favor of a candidate who is running on ending popular programs? Maybe Ryan gets the Wall Street types and the college Republicans (if there are any left) excited. The average GOP voter is going to hear "end Medicare" in the same sentence as Romney's name everyday for the next three months. And those same voters are going to hear Romney offer 30-40 garbled responses (it's hard to explain away something that is essentially true).

      I'm a Californian and I can't help but think back to the '10 Governor's race... Whitman had piles of money, an "excited" GOP base, and an unpopular opponent in Jerry Brown. And, despite all the b*llshit that conservative commentators were putting out there in the editorial columns explaining how Whitman and the GOP was immune to the unpopularity of the conservative platform ("voters are ready for real conservatism!" "voters are secretly sick of government!" "voters want a real, long-term plan!"), Whitman lost by double-digits and the California GOP lost every single state-wide office.

      It'll probably still be close. Conservatives really don't like Obama and the swingers are very pessimistic about their economic future. But Romney (and, more importantly, the GOP party leaders) are displaying such ineptitude, such intense denial of political realities and such tone-deafness that it makes me wonder if this election isn't already over.

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    8. @Anon-
      We totally agree that conservatives are vastly overestimating the appeal of social politics centered around fiscal austerity and laissez-faire. But don't underestimate the power of mass media and money, both of which can help keep bad ideas from going away. Since the Republicans are effectively precluded from endorsing a positive social and economic agenda by the beliefs of their donors (and the advocates who influence their donors), they cowtow to the money and use the money to build an incoherent, but very noisy right-wing populist movement with deep ties to the political media. Don't doubt for a minute that it's going to work sometimes. I think (and truly hope) that the wheels may come off this model of electoral success, but sometimes I'm not sure.

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    9. I think there's something else on this question of epistemic closure. The notion that Americans are actually clamoring for radical cutbacks in social programs has taken hold in part because mainstream commentary has been encouraging it too. Ryan caught on with the DC press corps because they were already primed to think that "America is basically a conservative country" and that intense skepticism toward public spending and government activism is, first, just hard-headed realism and, second, widely held among voters. There are various reasons for this, among them the fact that the most influential pundits are one-percenters themselves, and also the fact that political journalists focus on what changes from day to day, which leads them to overrate what's on the minds of rural/suburban voters in Pennsylvania and Michigan over the vast, solid, unchanging, predictable majorities in big cities and on the coasts (and among groups like African-Americans) that want nothing to do with Ryanism, or with Republicans in general for that matter.

      So, one thing I hope is that even if the epistemic bubble on the right can't be pierced -- they're going to go on believing in Ryan regardless -- maybe this race will help educate some of the elite commentators, the David Gregorys of the world, who will newly discover that most Americans don't actually want the welfare state dismantled, and that calling for same is boldly stupid, not boldly savvy.

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    10. My mom and dad are fairly Comfortable financially and they live in a community that is fairly insulated from the economic crisis. They're worried that Ryan is going to give Romney some kind of edge in terms of deficit reduction, which is something they see as this big important issue. I live in the closest big city, and my work takes me out or rural areas a few days a week, and I get exposed daily to the kind of things average people Are worrying about. Republicans must be stacking their focus groups with people like my parents, who have the luxury to worry about the deficit. They are in for a terrible surprise when they see how voters react to the Ryan plan.

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