The latest media obsession (or is it an Obama campaign talking point?) is to demand Mitt Romney explain how his budget and entitlement ideas differ from those Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). When he declines, the media screams, “Evasion!”
Why on earth would Romney answer that, and, more important, does anyone care? If the media is really interested in a compare and contrast exercise they can do their own analysis or ask some staffers. Romney, of course, is running at the top of the ticket, and both Romney and Ryan are running on Romney’s agenda. All Romney need do is explain what HE is for and how that differs from the president’s plans. Is there any voter who will decide to vote for or against Romney because of deviations from the plan his VP has proposed? That would be a first.
The media might have a point if Ryan had criticized Romney’s plans or if his own plans were vastly different from Romney’s. But in basic framework there is no difference between the two. They both want to lower tax rates and expand the base. Both Ryan and Romney want to block grant and reform Medicaid. Both favor a premium-support plan for Medicare. In short, they are in sync on every significant fiscal issue, and Ryan has agreed to be Romney’s VP.
The only reason for the press to ask this question is to carry the Obama team’s water — to make Romney and Ryan “defensive” or to claim there is “conflict” between the two. There is no better example of media-created conflict than this.
What is interesting is the degree to which Ryan is perfectly on message and echoing Romney’s agenda. Although appearing separately from Romney for the first time since the VP announcement, Ryan was showing no distance between the two. As this report notes, “Paul Ryan used his first solo campaign swing as Mitt Romney’s running mate Monday to hammer President Obama as a jobs killer, forcefully echoing Romney’s message, while Obama used a pair of nearby campaign stops to accuse Ryan of hurting drought-stricken farmers.” (Actually the president falsely accused Ryan of holding up drought relief; the House passed a drought-relief bill and it was not taken up by the Democratic majority in the Senate.)
There have been tickets in which the candidates had real differences in policy. George H.W. Bush called Ronald Reagan’s supply side economics “voodoo economics.” Joe Biden said prophetically that Barack Obama didn’t have the required foreign policy experience. But none of this mattered to real voters who understand the president is boss.
The Obama-media tandem is flailing, looking for ways to chip away at Ryan or create the appearance of inconsistency between the two. Romney said it very plainly:“I have my budget plan. And that’s the budget plan we’re going to run on.” Really, that’s not so hard to understand, is it?
What does seem to be an interesting area to explore is Obama’s agenda, or the lack thereof. Robert Gibbs couldn’t come up with what Obama’s Medicare plan would be. Obama hasn’t said how he’ll reform Social Security. He’s said he wants to wipe out the Bush tax cuts and raise a puny amount on the uber rich (the “Buffet tax”), but is that it — his entire tax reform plan? Romney has a plan to cut the debt in half in his first term. Where is Obama’s?
The president hasn’t given a press conference in weeks, and his stump speech is devoted to attacking his opponents. It sure would be nice if the media showed just a little interest in finding out what his second term plans are.