When Kadima MK Roni Bar-On is asked to analyze internal political moves taken by his old-time acquaintance Benjamin Netanyahu, he tends to attribute them to the teachings of Netanyahu's mentor, Arthur Finkelstein.
"The base, go for the base," Bar-On quotes what Finkelstein taught Netanyahu in the 90s. That is, when a politician is debating between his traditional supporters and a wider, more external circle, he can save himself the trouble of deciding. First of all, and above all, the base.
Mitt Romney's decision to name Paul Ryan as his running mate is just that – turning to the base. It means that the Republican presidential candidate recognizes his inferiority in the election campaign against Barack Obama.
Although he was victorious in the primaries and finished the internal struggle early – without having to wait for a candidate to be chosen during the party convention – Romney failed in his initial mission – to ensure support in the November election.
Only when that base is secured, Romney will be able to use it to try and win over the Democratic and undecided votes, without which he cannot defeat Obama. At the end of every election more than 40percent from each side vote for a candidate from one of the two big parties, and the fight – especially in key states that may swing differently than the last election – is fought for the remaining percentages.
In nominating Ryan, Romney is replicating himself. He could have tried to establish a balance in terms of geographical region (a running mate from the South or West, to campaign alongside Romney, who grew up in the Midwest and was elected governor in the East); an ethnic balance (an African American or Hispanic running mate) or a gender balance (a woman running mate, to counter Obama's lead among female voters).
Instead, Romney made do with more of the same – a white man from conservative America. If the election were held in this demographic alone – Romney would surely win. Yet America has changed, the Founding Fathers would not have recognized it and there are not enough Romneys and Ryans in 2012 to secure a victory.
Obama seems more vulnerable today than he did in 2008. At that time he was fresh and exciting, a Democrat who came to power after eight years of Republican control of the White House and in the midst of an economic crisis. Now he is the incumbent, the used-up, disappointing politician who must defend his record. A political rival can usually use this as an opening, but Romney has so far showed that he lacks the capabilities to do so.
Romney's main problem seems to be not his policies, but his personality. He fails to sweep people off their feet. Even those who agree with his agenda are left apathetic - perhaps they will come out to vote for him on November 6, but they will not jump through hoops for a candidate that does not exhilarate them. When they open their mouth, what comes out is not a battle cry; it's a series of yawns.
Ryan is supposed to help Romney close this gap. Despite the risk of chasing off undecided voters from the Left, Romney is forced to fortify the base. This is a cautious approach, which illustrates that Romney is no risk-taker (a principle that may reflect itself in his foreign policy, if he is sworn as president after all). This approach works well for a respectable loss; it lacks the audacity with which to emerge victorious, to turn an inferior situation in August to a superior standing in November.
Commentators in the U.S. have likened Romney and Ryan to the Hollywood duo Paul Newman and Robert Redford. That was a winning formula in the 70s, when Ryan was born and raised. Today, in order to dominate both the box office and the Oscars, different duos are needed – more diverse two actors, an actor and an actress; something revolutionary, critical, must happen in the next three month for Obama not to be reelected.
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