Is Paul Ryan Finished?
After the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver’s selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate, I wrote that win or lose—and Ryan almost certainly ensured Romney would lose—Paul Ryan would succeed. He had everything to gain from the national exposure, including frontrunner status for 2016, and nothing to lose. Either Paul Ryan became Vice President or he showcased his budget chopping chops to a conservative electorate that had been dying to hear somebody voice his exact policies.
I’m ready to revise this view. As Charles Pierce pointed out, Paul Ryan added absolutely nothing to Romney’s ticket. He did not help Romney carry Wisconsin. He did not help Romney carry anything. He even won his home district by half the margin of his previous victory, meaning he barely carried himself.
One reason for this—aside from the fact that his policies are so radical that people literally did not believe he actually proposed them—is that the Romney campaign hid him from view. Ryan had the smallest impact on a presidential ticket of any running mate in modern political history, his convention speech stunk so badly with falsehoods that most factcheckers had to leave the room, and he immediately began to tank Romney’s numbers with seniors in Ohio and Florida. This was one thing when Romney was still lingering in his get-out-the-base phase. But when he made a left turn into Moderate Romney during the first debate—and reaped enough of a reward that it seemed like he could actually win the election—suddenly Ryan’s conservative credentials no longer outweighed his detrimental effects on the ticket. Here’s Noam Scheiber:
When Romney first picked Ryan, I argued that the only possible rationale was to appease conservatives, even though the move could ensure Romney’s defeat. By late September, the Romney campaign had come to this conclusion, too. Ryan vanished into endless debate-cramming sessions. Other than rallying the campaign’s most hardcore supporters, the only time he emerged from his undisclosed location (and you thought they only got those after the election) was to hold fundraisers in electorally critical states like Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. When the Romney campaign ran ads, the wingman they showcased wasn’t Ryan. It was Ohio Senator (and vice presidential also-ran) Rob Portman.
The Pinochet-style disappearance of Ryan kinda, sorta worked. By late October, according to Quinnipiac, Romney was back to leading Obama among seniors in Florida and Ohio.
Remember that the first introduction most of us got to Ryan on an electoral level was when his budget cost the GOP a special election in New York in 2011, a move that sent Republicans running from him in the Capitol hallways. Ryan started to have the same effect on the Romney ticket, at which point advisers basically buried him in a hole. It seems that any time Paul Ryan gets near an actual electorate, he melts every Republican around him. Which means, for all the hot air about him being the intellectual bulwark of the conservative movement, we may never see him run for anything but his own seat ever again.