So I was watching the 6:00 PM Fox News show. It is a pretty good straight news program. They focused on Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio as the four who are being looked at the hardest to be Romney’s running mate. The Weekly Standard came out for either Ryan or Rubio. I don’t have the mental energy to write out an argument against the two of them right now. Here is my recycled case against Rubio for VP:
There are large downside risks in picking Rubio. Rubio has been a Senator for less than two years and has no executive experience. Yeah, I know Obama didn’t have a lot of federal experience either. But Obama spent 2008 running on a platform of middle-class tax cuts, and a whole bunch of new spending at the low price of repealing the Bush tax cuts and repealing some tax breaks for oil companies. What Obama was running on didn’t seem threatening to the median voter. Obama also had the advantages of a sitting Republican President with approval ratings in the low 30s and a financial crisis that could not have been better timed to benefit his campaign. Romney is running on some pretty major (and mostly not-at-all understood) entitlement reforms that will change the lives of millions of people. Good for Romney, but these policies are going to be a tough sell and Obama’s approval ratings are in the 46%-48% range. If Rubio comes off as a cynical gimmick choice, Romney’s image as the competent, realistic guy who can be trusted to do what needs to be done, is going to be damaged.
And from the old No Left Turns site, here was my case against Paul Ryan as an optimal GOP nominee for President:
Paul Ryan may be the most useful Republican House member in decades when it comes to domestic policy, but I think that Ryan (based on the tax plan in his original Roadmap) is fatally flawed as a presidential candidate. If someone has a good rebuttal to the math in the link, I’d love to see it.
I’m impressed by Rubio’s rhetoric (usually), but a presidential candidate who is a state legislator turned Senator with less than a year of service is a problem for several reasons. Republicans need a more politic plan for a sustainable budget than anything Ryan has offered, and need a candidate with a record of executive competence so the public will be reassured that the person offering these radical-sounding (if gradual) changes isn’t some ideological fantasist who doesn’t know how to implement policy in a responsible way.
So you say that Obama is a state legislator turned freshman Senator and he is now President. Sure, but, on policy, the Republican challenge in 2012 is almost the reverse of Obama’s challenge in 2008. Obama basically ran by promising everything to everybody at the low, low price of some tax increases on the top 2% of earners. His lack of a record helped because he hadn’t been in the Senate to vote for a bunch of tax increases (or against tax cuts he now said he wanted to keep) and defense cuts.
Republicans, if they are to be at all responsible, are going to have to offer a plan for fiscal consolidation that will touch the lives of tens of millions. It isn’t going to sound good. It is going to sound disruptive and scary. The Republicans will have to convince the marginal voters that the Republican plan is preferable to the combination of tax increases and centralized health care cuts that will come if Obama is reelected. This is why a record of maintaining core government services while cutting spending down to a sustainable level would be a key asset for a 2012 Republican presidential candidate.
Ryan has been immensely useful in the House of Representatives. He has been an articulate and determined policy reformist. But as a running mate for Romney, Ryan’s strengths would partly become weaknesses. Ramesh Ponnuru wrote that the strongest argument in favor of selecting Ryan would be that Romney is going to have to defend the Ryan budget eventually and nobody is better at that than Ryan. Maybe. I think it would be better for Romney to defend some key ideas in the Ryan budget, but without having to defend all of the specifics. That means Romney needs to make a persuasive defense for premium support Medicare, but it doesn’t mean he needs to be tied to what Ryan budgeted for nondefense discretionary spending in the out years. I haven’t heard any elected Republican make the case for premium support Medicare better than Ryan and don’t expect to see anyone do a better job of it than Ryan this year. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be better for the defense of Romney’s proposals to come from someone who doesn’t have to defend the whole of the Ryan budget.
There is another problem with picking Ryan as a running mate. Ryan is actually a pretty flexible, pro-compromise guy. He has come out with a lot of plans. It is one of the best things about him. The problem is that picking Ryan would put Romney in the position of having to defend not only the current Ryan budget, but Ryan’s earlier policy proposals. The first version of the Ryan budget cut Medicare more sharply than the current version and outright eliminated Medicare Fee for Service. An even earlier Ryan proposal (called the Roadmap for America’s Future) had even more problems. For the Romney team, explaining premium support Medicare will be tough enough. The media will be pretty unhelpful in any discussion of the issue. Having to defend or explain away all of the most unpopular parts of all of Paul Ryan’ many proposals (and all the different versions of premium support Ryan has proposed) would be a further problem. Maybe it is a problem that can be overcome. Ryan is a very articulate and likeable guy. But maybe Romney would be better off with a running mate who can defend Paul Ryan-type policies in general terms, but isn’t tied down to the specifics of all of Ryan’s various plans.