I agree with my Republican friends that Congressman Paul Ryan was a smart pick as Mitt Romney's running mate.
As political scientist Larry Sabato stated, "Ryan, like Sarah Palin, is a pick designed not necessarily to appeal to independents or Democrats, but rather to excite the party's base."
Indeed, political analyst Nate Silver rates Ryan as "the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice presidential slot since at least 1900." It is too early to tell, however, if Ryan will appeal to the independent voters Romney will need in November.
Ryan comes with some baggage. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, he is the author of a federal budget plan which has twice passed in the House of Representatives. Included in Ryan's budget is his plan to replace Medicare and Medicaid with a voucher system allowing states to run their own health-care insurance system, but with limited federal aid. In other words, federal funding for these programs will be significantly reduced.
Five states with Republican governors have already refused to expand their Medicare program as provided by the Affordable Care Act. Thus, the Ryan plan does not bode well for seniors who depend upon Medicare, now or in the future. Anyone thinking that these changes would not impact current seniors isn't paying attention to what is already happening in states with Republican governors and legislators today.
The Romney campaign did a double flip-flop on Ryan's budget. In March Romney said, "I think it'd be marvelous if the Senate were to pick up Paul Ryan's budget and to adopt it and pass it along to the president." But the day after Romney selected Ryan for his running mate, his campaign tried to build some distance from the Ryan plan by stating that Romney did not necessarily agree with all aspects of Ryan's proposals. Then, a few days later, Romney decided to go on the offense and stated that, "Actually, Paul Ryan and my plan for Medicare, I think, is the same, if not identical - it's probably close to identical."
Let's be clear. The Ryan plan has already passed the House. Democrats stopped the plan in the Senate for now. However, if the GOP takes control of the Senate in November, they will likely pass the Ryan budget and Romney has already indicated that he would sign the bill into law if elected. Indeed, the future of these popular health care programs for seniors and the disabled will be on the ballot in November.
The Romney campaign has already tried to turn this issue around by stating that President Obama, not Romney and Ryan, is trying to cut Medicare. Well, you have to forget a lot of congressional history to swallow a tale that big. In fact, Republicans have been trying to reduce spending for Medicare and Medicaid for decades. Obama's Affordable Health Care Act, which Romney has pledged to kill, expands Medicare for millions of Americans without health care insurance.
Another benefit of the Ryan selection is that it puts the state of Wisconsin and their 10 electoral votes into play. Prior to the Ryan selection, Obama was ahead in the Wisconsin polls by a comfortable lead. Today, according to RealClearPolitics.com, his average lead there is down to 3.5 points.
While popular polling indicates that the election is tight, Obama holds a significant lead in the Electoral College count. But all of these numbers will move up and down as we make our way through the Democratic and Republican conventions, as well as the important national debates.
Today, turnout is probably the most important variable in winning elections. It really is all about getting your people to the polls. Tea party Republicans like Ryan are notoriously good at inspiring Republicans to vote. On this one variable alone, Romney's choice was wise.