In Choosing Ryan, Romney Bets Big on the Economy

Thanks to his economic plan, Ryan is much more known across the country than, say, Sarah Palin in summer 2008. Still, to many Americans who are not interested in politics and economics, he remains relatively unknown.

Is Paul Ryan, who is part of a group of emerging Republicans (known as the “young guns”), whose name was featured on a list of candidates for the position of vice president for weeks, is a safe choice for Romney?

The decision surely won over conservatives who do not especially like Romney the “flip-flopper,” who to their taste made too many compromises during his term as governor of Massachusetts, a liberal state, and will encourage those same conservatives to vote. Ralph Reed, who founded the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said the decision was “an inspired, outstanding selection” and calling him a “person of devout Christian faith who has a 100 percent pro-life and pro-family voting record in his 14 years in Congress.”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who was also on Romney’s potential running mate list called Ryan a “good friend,” calling him “one of the smartest guys I served with in Congress. He has the courage of his convictions, which is what our nation needs."

Ryan, who is well aware of the criticism he is bound to receive from the Democratic camp for being “extreme,” spoke about his ability to work with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle during his speech. But the decision also makes it easier for the Obama campaign to sharpen the difference between the two contrasting options which lie before the American public in the economic realm: incentives or cuts.

The Romney campaign already offers bumper stickers with both of the candidates’ names, while the Obama campaign introduced an ad attacking the two. At the heart of the Democratic assault Ryan’s Medicare reform plan, which the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed in April. Ryan’s plan raises the eligibility age for Medicare to 67, gives pensioners the opportunity to use vouchers to purchase private health insurance and cuts $700 billion from Medicaid. Obama has already called the plan “social Darwinism.”

Romney is hoping that picking Ryan will divert the public discourse away from his past financial troubles (such as questionable tax returns) – and onto the question of the country's economic future. This is in line with Ryan's plan: Small government, tax cuts and a significant change to federal programs facing bankruptcy in the near future.

Liberal organizations had a different on this plan: Last spring, one of them produced an ad showing Ryan pushing a old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff.
In the time left until November 6, both camps will try to convince the public they are right – and there is also a chance that the debate will finally move on from personal attacks and doubts over Romney's integrity to a discussion involving real proposals. Romney, who recently drew criticism from party elders for not being focused and specific enough in presenting an alternative, is finally sharpening his message.

Romney's campaign hopes that choosing Ryan will boost his ratings –yet when one examines the larger picture, it is still unclear if Ryan brings any added value in terms of securing the support of independent voters and demographics which lean toward Obama such as women and Hispanic voters.

Although Ryan comes from Wisconsin – a swing state that last voted for a Republican nominee in 1984 (Reagan) – it is not a state that will determine the outcome of the election (unlike Florida, Virginia and Ohio). And while Ryan tries make Romney's message more succinct – he doesn't look different enough, besides his younger age.

Thanks to his economic plan, Ryan is much more known across than country than Sarah Palin, John McCain's choice in 2008. Still, to many Americans who are not interested in politics and economics, he remains relatively unknown. A CNN poll last week that rated possible running mates placed Ryan in second place after conservative Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

In recent weeks, Romney has trailed behind Obama in most national polls by a margin of 7-9 points. According to the most recent CNN poll, Obama leads with 52 percent over Romney's 45 percent among registered voters. It is interesting to note that Virginia, - where Romney chose to announce his running mate – voted for Obama in 2008, the first time it chose a Democratic candidate in 44 years.