Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate on Saturday, ending months of speculation over who the former Massachusetts governor would choose. We asked William Crotty, Northeastern political science professor and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Public Life, to analyze what the selection of Ryan means for Romney’s campaign and the presidential race.
What is your overall assessment of Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate? What are his greatest assets that he brings to the Romney ticket?
Paul Ryan is a great choice for the Republican ticket. He brings balance and congressional expertise as head of the House Budget Committee and is an articulate spokesperson for restraint and new Republican-style approaches to cutting expenditures. He is a young, effective speaker who brings a sense of gravitas to politics. Given some of the other choices available, Romney could had tried to juice up the ticket with a more combative, outspoken and forceful candidate, which describes some of those reportedly under consideration. That strategy would have appealed to the core Republican base (as Representative Ryan does anyway) but would not have been as strong an addition to the Romney campaign. As a political strategist, I would say he could not have done better.
Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has been a staunch supporter of overhauling federal entitlement programs such as Medicare. How does his selection as Romney’s vice presidential nominee shape the debate over the budget between now and election day?
The selection of Congressman Ryan should clearly focus the debate on the major issues facing the country. This is repetitive, but they are the economy, tax structure and reduced social spending. Ryan has already put forth a budgetary program. The Republicans love it and it does advance their interests. The Democrats, for their part, say they are appalled. But they have not effectively answered it or come up with an agreed-upon alternative program of their own. The advantage here is to the Republicans. Ryan is going to attack Medicare and propose bloc grants — a very different program from the present one. The Democrats are going to have to develop a far more effective counterattack or set of alternatives than they have to date. So far it’s been a campaign devoid of serious discussion of issues. Whatever your political beliefs may be, they should be addressed by one side or the other in the next several months.
What does Romney’s selection of Ryan tell us about the way in which he makes political decisions?
It was a reasoned, deliberate process. Romney and his camp carefully controlled the information. They made a judgment as to the major issues that will affect the campaign and brought in somebody younger, articulate and seemingly knowledgeable in the area (Democrats might question this) who has produced fundamental Republican party positions on the economy, taxes, entitlements and the role of government in relation to these. It is reminiscent of 2008 when Barack Obama picked an expert, well respected legislator in Joe Biden to fill out his ticket. It contrasts markedly with the McCain camp’s choice of a poorly vetted, unknown first-term governor from Alaska, Sarah Palin. The selection went against John McCain’s unfilled preference of Joe Lieberman, who had travelled with the McCain campaign and was well known, and whatever her appeal Sarah Palin was a disaster. The decision-making process is promising as a model for those to come should he be elected president.