Dissatisfaction with the trajectory of the campaign seems highest among Ryan’s most ardent backers. They view Romney’s campaign as having doubled back to a cautious strategy, avoiding Ryan’s trademark big ideas, and hoping President Obama will beat himself.
“I was wrong. When Paul Ryan was picked, I really thought this meant that the Romney campaign was shifting gears and was going to have a debate about big issues,” said Michael Tanner, an expert on health care and the budget at the libertarian Cato Institute.
He said that Romney’s campaign had previously cast the race as a referendum on Obama instead of as a choice between two clear visions. That hasn’t changed, he said.
“Why do you pick somebody like Paul Ryan if you’re going to run a referendum, Obama’s-done-a-bad-job campaign?” Tanner asked.
The dissatisfaction is not within Washington alone. Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) — who was so moved during Ryan’s GOP convention speech that he wept as his longtime ally spoke — told radio host Charlie Sykes that he thinks Ryan is not being used to his full potential.
“I just haven’t seen that kind of passion I know that Paul has transferred over to our nominee,” he said. He suggested that “pushback from some of the folks in the national campaign” might be restraining Ryan.
Asked about Walker’s critique on Friday, Ryan told reporters that he is “absolutely” satisfied with his role in the campaign.
“Look at what we’re doing,” he said during a stop at a fruit stand in Bartow, Fla. “We’re talking to local people, going around the country talking to local press. I’m excited about my role and I feel very comfortable with it.”
Part of Ryan’s predicament is the result of the strategic decisions of the Romney campaign, which some critics argue has been too cautious in its deployment of the seven-term Wisconsin Republican. There’s also the matter of some of Ryan’s self-inflicted wounds in recent weeks, as well as the substance of what he talks about on the campaign trail.
In his month-and-a-half as GOP vice presidential nominee, Ryan has not held a formal media availability with the dozen or so reporters that comprise his traveling press corps. He also did not hold any formal news conferences during his low-key return to Capitol Hill earlier this month or during his brief trip to Washington last week.
What Ryan has done is target local media outlets: He has sat down for more than 100 local TV or print interviews in 12 swing states, according to a Washington Post tally.