Well, my previous post was all muddled. I jumped the gun, and ended up with a klutzy set of thoughts as I was forced to revise everything three hours after I'd put it out onto the net. Well, this time, I'm being anything but too hasty. Everybody has weighed in on Paul Ryan by now. Now it's my turn.
First, I've noticed a trend between winning and losing presidential candidates. It seems that the candidate who's likely to win always chooses a boring and safe running mate, while the candidate who is likely to lose chooses an exciting, risky running mate. This is no accident. Candidates who are winning have no need to rock the boat, while candidates who are losing have every reason to. Thus, in 1988, George Bush, Sr., riding Reagan's coattails, chose a pretty boy from a swing state, Dan Quayle of Indiana, while in 1984 Walter Mondale, who was trailing Reagan by a wide margin, went with a she-wolf in Geraldine Ferraro. In 1992, Bill Clinton had won most of the swing voters away from the failed campaign of H. Ross Perot, and went with another safe VP pick with Al Gore, an "Atari Democrat" from Tennessee. Eight years later, when it was Gore vs. Bush, Jr., Al went with Joseph Liebermann, a Jew, to shake things up, while Bush chose Dick Cheney, who could put children to sleep with his speeches.
Now we have Mitt Romney, and he's chosen a rock-the-boat vice president.
Guess who's likely to win?
I suppose I can't blame Romney. He wants to make it as exciting as possible. He also wants to energize the base to the fullest extent in order to get out the vote. Choosing Ryan does that. The pick makes sense in a number of other ways, too. Ryan is from a swing state, Wisconsin. He's youthful and handsome. He's the darling of the Tea Party. He will help with the thorny problem of conservative Christians who might balk at a Mormon candidate. In many ways, it's a choice that makes sense.
That having been said, Democrats are already opening the champagne. Ryan makes his VP selection, and he's chosen the biggest "scare grandma" candidate available, a guy who was considered a long shot only two months ago. He's the leader of a Congress with a mere 7% approval rating. He makes his fellow right-wing extremists look tame by comparison. He's the new Joseph McCarthy, only this time with brains, and minted for cable television. What a gift! He's put Wisconsin back into play, but has practically surrendered Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania to do it.
Why would Romney do this?
I think I know, and it's not just throwing a "Hail Mary" pass the way John McCain did in '08. I have two insights. One is solid and is undoubtedly correct. The other is a pet hypothesis. A conspiracy theory, if you will. I'll share them here, and leave you, the reader, free to prefer one, the other, or both as you see fit. Here we go:
My solid insight is that Paul Ryan is a solid pick for a financial strategy. Regarding campaign financing, Obama has been outpaced by Romney. This is not a first for a sitting president, as John Kerry outpaced George W. Bush in '04, but it is a first for this massive a scale. Records are being broken on both sides, and this has led the Obama campaign to deal with it directly. Obama's strategists have been launching attack ads early, trying to cripple Romney's campaign so that later donors will trail off, allowing Our Trophy President to win a second term. So far, the strategy is working, with Obama opening up a more than 5% lead, according to most polls.
How does Romney counter this? Why by picking a VP candidate who energizes the Obama haters like no other, thus guaranteeing that his base will not get discouraged, and guaranteeing that he will not falter in raising money come October/November.
This is what Romney does best: raise money. He knows how to get rich people to invest. This is how he had his success with Bain Capital. This is how he helped the 2002 Winter Olympics. He gets rich folks to back him. Nobody does it better. But to get his money, he's embraced extremism. He dug up his treasure chest, and now he's full of dirt and mud. It's a good financial move, but it's not a good political move.
Mitt's Veep choice makes dollars, not sense.
In fact, I'm convinced that this is just a symptom of what Mitt is, as well as what he does. Mitt Romney is a good investment guy. He wins in the business world. But he's just not a good politician. He lost in Massachusetts to Ted Kennedy, and Obama is twice as powerful as Ted Kennedy ever was. Even Hillary Clinton couldn't beat him. Only the best politician could possibly beat Obama. Mitt Romney just doesn't have the skills.
Not that Republicans should feel bad. They didn't have a candidate to begin with. All they had were a bunch of stumble-bums scampering around Iowa who were crazy enough to think that "Obamacare" can or should be repealed. Most sensible Republicans, like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, were smart enough to sense that the economy was slowly recovering and decided to stay out of it.
And now for my second insight, and this one is, admittedly, far-fetched. The one thing that Mitt Romney fears most is Ron Paul. That's right, the old geezer who just wouldn't quit and came one plurality state short of throwing a huge monkey wrench into the Republican National Convention. He still has enough pull to cause a shitload of damage, and were he to run as a third-party candidate, he would have enough electoral college votes to ensure a Mitt Romney loss.
So, here's my pet hypothesis: I could just imagine Romney going to Ron Paul and saying, "Look, you can't win, but I know you intend to make an impact. We have to do what's best for the nation. What can I do to ensure you stay out of this from here on out?"
Ron Paul, who is all about lasses faire economics, hands the torch to the next generation, and to a fellow Ayn Rand disciple, by saying, "Make Paul Ryan your running mate, and I promise you, I won't run on a third-party ticket."
So there it is. Paul Ryan is a financial pick, and a backroom deal with the Devil. It's selling out in the hope that money really can buy you love.
Well, I say fuck the money. Fuck the extremism behind it. I'd rather vote for a Chicago politician than let some fool from Janesville embarrass the Dairy State.