Politico’s Alexander Burns, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin report that GOP elites are already worried about the downside risk Rep. Paul Ryan adds to the Republican presidential ticket:
[S]kepticism about Ryan among GOP strategists is striking. […]
“I think it’s a very bold choice. And an exciting and interesting pick. It’s going to elevate the campaign into a debate over big ideas. It means Romney-Ryan can run on principles and provide some real direction and vision for the Republican Party. And probably lose. Maybe big,” said former President George W. Bush senior adviser Mark McKinnon.
“Whether or not they [the Romney campaign] want to say that they have their own plan on Day One, or whatever they’re doing, it doesn’t change the reality of them having to own the Ryan plan. How is that in the wheelhouse of creating jobs?” added a GOP consultant.
Joked another: “The most popular phrase in Washington right now is: ‘I love Paul Ryan, but . . .”
Oddly enough, Mitt Romney’s campaign also shares this skepticism. In its talking points for handling the vice presidential announcement, Team Romney took care to distance their nominee from Ryan’s signature budget plan:
Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.
Likewise, the next day, Romney threw water on adopting Ryan’s proposals as the message for his campaign. “I have my budget plan as you know that I’ve put out. And that’s the budget plan that we’re going to run on,” he said to CBS News on Sunday. On Monday, however, Romney took the opposite approach, telling crowds in Miami he was on the “same page” as Ryan’s budget plan.
Paul Ryan, on the other hand, has avoided his plan in campaigning for Gov. Romney. Writing for the Washington Examiner, Byron York notes that Ryan “touched each point of Romney’s five-point plan for ‘more jobs and more take-home pay,’” and downplayed his budget, opting not to discuss entitlements or the deficit.
Ryan was supposed to be a “bold” and “daring” pick for Mitt Romney, but so far, he seems reluctant to capitalize on Ryan’s outsized influence in the Republican Party, opting instead to return to a campaign that is relentlessly focused on the economy. Thus far, Ryan seems to exist as a consolation prize to conservatives — a way to generate enthusiasm and keep them from abandoning his campaign.
It’s not hard to see the problem with this strategy. By choosing a controversial figure like Paul Ryan, Romney has announced that he wants to talk about far-reaching change to the nature and structure of government. If you do that, then you actually have to talk about the changes you want.
You can win by adopting a radical plan and selling it, or you can win by focusing on the economy and keeping your plans vague. But you can’t adopt a radical plan and then refuse to take responsibility for its content. Or rather, you can, but you shouldn’t expect to win.