Paul Ryan: More Than a Pretty Face
The political world went from zero to sixty in mere seconds earlier this month as Mitt Romney’s announcement that Paul Ryan would be his running mate split America straight down deeply ingrained party lines.
Republicans hailed the choice as bold and invigorating. Democrats criticized the former Massachusetts governor and his freshly minted running mate, saying the move was a last-ditch effort -- despite polls that have consistently shown Romney and Obama running a tight race to November -- and predicted ultimate demise as a result of Ryan’s “extreme” conservative positions.
Of course, liberals have been predicting the same demise as a result of Romney’s moderate track record. But even their leader himself seems to acknowledge the potential that Ryan, a seven-term Wisconsin congressman, brings to the table. Obama called Ryan an, “articulate spokesman” for the GOP presidential bid. And while he may not have pulled any punches when he added that Ryan is an “ideologic leader” with the “wrong vision” for America, he also doesn’t seem to be denying that he and Joe have their work cut out for them over the next couple months.
The truth is, while we could debate where Ryan’s ideas fall along the political spectrum all day, he is a powerhouse choice that has the potential to entirely change the 2012 game. It’s not just his youth and energetic presence, though he certainly has both. In fact, even his ability to invigorate the GOP’s conservative base, his Midwest roots, and his nationally-recognized position as the Republican’s budgetary and economic whiz kid, probably aren’t what the “forward” trudging Obama-Biden ticket has to worry about most.
It’s no accident that both teams are showing up at campaign stops carefully dressed to exude blue-collar relatability. Tie-less, sleeves rolled to the forearms, collar unbuttoned; it’s a look that Obama probably could have trademarked in the last election, one that most certainly played an important role in his success in 2008. But it’s also a place where Ryan could beat him at his own game.
As many Americans trade in old-fashioned ideas about what is and is not blue collar, and yearn instead for a candidate that is simply relatable, Ryan may have an upper hand. Not only does Ryan have the sex appeal that propelled Obama to celebrity four years ago, he appeals to the average American man just as much as his female counterpart. An avid hunter and outdoorsman who sleeps in his office during the week, sees his family on weekends, and reportedly partakes in the gut-wrenching fitness program known as P90X, Ryan is undeniably masculine -- while Obama has been called the "first unisex president"
And it’s not just apparent testosterone production in which Ryan trumps the leader of the free world. His political experience relative to Obama’s in 2008 is like comparing the school experiences of a kindergartener and a college freshman. While Ryan’s shallow foreign relations experience might otherwise be a point of valid criticism, he has no less than Obama did when the latter decided to run -- not just for vice president, but president, four years ago. Plus, Ryan’s overall political experience far outpaces Obama’s before he entered the White House. Ryan may “only” have seven terms as a U.S. representative under his belt, but that’s six more terms in Congress than Obama ever served. And before that, Ryan had a long and varied history of working as a political staffer.
The 42-year-old husband and father has been a productive member of the legislature since the beginning of his political career, and while liberals may criticize Ryan’s most notable achievement of late -- his budget proposal -- as "extreme," they conveniently forget that their own party has only avoided the same fate by not having one. Meanwhile, in a climate of such high economic tensions it seems having any plan is better than none at all. Ryan’s productivity has earned him a few stripes that will come in handy in the general election.
Most notable of them, his fundraising prowess; something that has been a major point of contention for the once deep-pocketed Obama campaign this year. The Obama team has resorted to asking donors for their birthday and wedding money, and warned supporters that they risk being the only team in modern history to be outspent in their bid for re-election. In a recent email to campaign supporters , Joe Biden even accused their opponents of trying to “buy” the election, an ironic turn of the tables given the incredible amount of money it took for the Democrats to win the White House last time. Meanwhile, Romney has enjoyed success in raising capital, and Ryan is no stranger to sealing the deal on contributions in his own campaigns.
I’d say it’s these things, all wrapped up in a neat, GOP package, that -- even as their supporters may be flippantly writing the opposition off -- have the incumbent president and his sidekick acknowledging what a formidable foe they face come November.