2. Great Medicare speech by Paul Ryan at the AARP today. It hit all the right notes in attacking the Obama approach to Medicare reform. Every Republican who talks about Medicare should read it. Ryan knows how to attack IPAD effectively and he speak for a sustainable and humane Medicare program. That’s the good news. Here is the bad news: it doesn’t matter much in the short-term. One speech (or a dozen speeches) given by the vice presidential nominee isn’t going to break through the media filter right away. The NBC Nightly News spent as much time talking about the booing Ryan got than about what Ryan actually said. That’s the real tragedy of the Romney convention speech. The main problem wasn’t that the speech was a disorganized, cynical, useless mess (though it was that.) The problem was in the opportunity costs. Thirty million Americans heard Romney talk for forty minutes. He could have explained his major policy ideas. This would have made every later policy speech easier since more people would have context for what he and Ryan were saying. Instead we got the stuff about Romney’s dad’s flowers. The problem with Romney’s speech wasn’t that it didn’t produce a bounce. The problem was that it strategically weakened the Romney team’s ability to communicate for the rest of the campaign. One measure of the Romney campaign’s deranged cynicism is the polling on Medicare. In the aftermath of Romney picking Ryan and focusing on Medicare, the Republicans took the polling lead on the Medicare issue. Then Romney went back to his placebo message of “The economy is bad, and I’m from business, so you have to vote for me. Right?” The Democrats have retaken the lead on Medicare and Paul Ryan giving speeches that will be clipped by news shows isn’t going to get it back.
But there is more good news. Tens of thousands of conservative activists and right-leaners are going to Ryan’s speeches and hearing him talk at length. Ryan is getting a bigger audience than he has ever gotten before. Most of the time this audience isn’t made up of the persuadables Romney-Ryan need, but there is more to politics than this election. Ryan’s policies and rhetorical style will become more familiar and more popular as more conservatives hear him talk. Conservatives will do a better job of talking entitlement policy to each other and (eventually) to nonconservatives. It won’t show up in this year’s election returns, but at some point, Democrats are going to be surprised at how good Republicans are at talking about “Democratic” issues.