Tapping Paul Ryan might have endeared Mitt Romney to the conservative, Republican base, but will his choice have any impact on the outcome of the presidential race? My take - Paul Ryan, meh... He won't have an impact on the campaign. Here's why and what Mitt Romney could have done to make the President's re-election bid a lot more difficult.
It's the Economy (Not Budgets) Stupid
If the Romney-Ryan campaign had their way, Paul Ryan's selection would focus the race on economics, highlight weaknesses in the economy, attribute them to President Obama, and reinforce their experience and vision for budgets. The Romney campaign has made a real strategic error here: the economy, not budgets, gets the attention of the media and voters no matter how important or not the connection between them is.
The Other Clintonian Misinterpretation: Gore
In 1992, Clinton chose Al Gore as his running mate to reinforce his strengths as a young, dynamic candidate with a new vision for America's future. Mitt Romney is pursuing a similar strategy with Paul Ryan, but the issues and the electoral map have changed so dramatically that this strategy won't work in 2012.
It's important to clarify the issues piece because healthcare and war were important issues than and are now, but their political milieu has changed. Most people try to forget or pretend that we are involved in armed conflict and neither candidate can talk about healthcare without making the other candidate look good or sounding ironic at best.
Now for the map:
The 1992 presidential election was an entirely different ball of wax where the Democratic and Republican candidates were engaged in a broader, national competition. With each successive election, the trend has been towards an ever-narrowing set of swing states:
A different map requires a different strategy.
The Magic Number: 270
Ultimately, presidential candidates win by getting more than 270 votes in the electoral college, and since only a few states are truly in play, one state could mean the difference between winning and losing. With this in mind, Romney could have made the President's re-election much more difficult by playing old-fashioned geopolitics.
The Romney campaign should have:
1. Limited their vice presidential search to Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia (swing states with sizeable electoral votes)
2. Identified the top 1, 2, or 3 Republicans with statewide name ID and high approval ratings in those states
3. Picked one!
Of course, many political scientists dismiss the value of the vice presidential pick rightfully asserting that they are only worth a couple points in their home state, but this analysis misses the point: a handful of points means the difference between winning and losing in these toss up states.
Electoral College Still Strong for Obama
The electoral college has always favored Obama this election and excluding factors like the European debt crisis or serious strategic errors from the President's campaign, will continue to do so especially with Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket.