Three things we learned about Romney when he picked Paul Ryan as his running mate

by Nikhil Dyundi

As the immediate buzz around Paul Ryan’s selection subsides the real implications are becoming clear. Suffice to say, they don’t paint a picture of a campaign in rude health. Here are the top three.

1 Romney is still running in the Republican primary

The Ryan pick tells us that Romney is worried about his back.

Neither the Republican elite, as embodied by the Wall Street Journal, nor the tea party base has coalesced around Romney as he would have wanted. Background chatter criticising the campaign and candidate are a constant.

Paul Ryan is the darling of the Republican elite and seen as sufficiently fiscally sound/insane (delete as appropriate) by the base. His choice will firm up these groups’ commitment to the campaign. But this support was meant to be sewn up months ago. At this stage in a presidential contest, the candidate should have swung into the centre, not headed out further into base territory.

By picking Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney is essentially still fighting the Republican primary and just permanently ceded large tracts of the centre ground to team Obama.

2 The current campaign narrative is killing Romney and he is trying to change the conversation

So far the campaign has been defined by two questions: Did Bain destroy American jobs and businesses while Romney ran the show? And, has Mitt Romney paid any taxes, ever?

The facts have been against Romney on Bain. Despite his protests that he left the company in 1999, before they really amped up their mania for outsourcing, documents filed with the financial authorities have one Mitt Romney as the CEO and chair till 2002.

On tax, Romney has signed a blank cheque for the Democrats by refusing to release past tax returns. Whatever the Dems say about Romney, he will not release the evidence to contradict it. Which naturally leads most to think he really must have something awful to hide.

Picking Ryan is a bold enough play to shift the conversation.

Unlike other potential VP contenders, Ryan has a thing he is known for. It’s even got his name on it: the Ryan plan. This was his budget proposal which, among other things, proposed turning Medicare into a voucher system. For Brits, think standing on a ticket to privatise the NHS.

At the height of the debate about the Ryan plan, the Republicans managed to lose one of their safest seats in the House of Representatives in a campaign fought virtually as a referendum on his Medicare proposals.

Paul Ryan for vice president puts this plan back at the centre of the debate.  It tells us just how much Romney’s campaign must really hate the current conversation, if this seen as a better alternative.

3 Romney has abandoned the Hispanic vote

There was one VP pick that had Democrats genuinely worried. It had the potential to be transformational and recast the race: Marco Rubio.

Rubio is the junior senator from Florida. Yes, you guessed it, he’s Hispanic. Better still, he’s a tea party favourite and has got a great back story. On paper, he seemed to be the obvious pick and would have excited the media in the way Palin initially did before she opened her mouth and let the crazy out.

Picking this running mate would have sealed Florida and reworked the electoral math in a slew of states with significant Hispanic populations.

But Rubio as Romney’s VP would have the placed immigration and a route to citizenship for the millions of illegal Hispanic migrants, at the heart of the campaign.

Given large parts of the Republican party base think the Arizona law where the police can demand to see residents’ papers without any actual reason, is a too liberal, Romney’s team will have calculated this to be a debate they couldn’t handle.

In rejecting Rubio, Romney has given up on his one route to the Hispanic vote and signalled that he will run from any debate on immigration.

Nikhil Dyundi is a registered Democrat

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