Conventional wisdom holds that Romney's recent three-country swing was a gaffe-fest. He made an arse of himself in England, made a putz of himself in Israel, and shut up while his aide made a dupa of himself in Poland. Upon his return, Romney continued to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease, and his ratings in the polls show it.
So obviously he's out of control and his handlers haven't figured out how to avoid gaffes. Right? Maybe not. Maybe he's actually executing a strategy. It may be a long shot strategy, but it all fits, especially because they know he's a long shot. His choice of Paul Ryan just fits the pattern.
The strategy confirms what others here, like Kos, have said. It isn't about wooing the "moderate" or "independent" voters that the J-school graduates pretend decide elections. It's all about the turnout.
Romney's so-called gaffes all have the same idea behind them. America is the best country in the world, the rest of of the world is ganged up against us, there are still lots of dirty kommies out there, our only salvation is to stick to Jeeeezus in one or another religious-right model, and only the JobCreators(tm) can save the economy. Medical care is bad; if your employer doesn't buy you insurance, then prayer is all you need. Who believes this? "The base". If you take the regular Faux News audience, the people who vote in Republican primaries, the people who put on funny hats at teabagger rallies, and the rest of the nuttiest of the nutty, then you have people who do not find those to be gaffes. They are dogwhistles, perhaps, but really they're statements of assurance. "Romney is like us!" Stupid, ignorant, and hateful perhaps, but that's what they like.
Ryan fits that mold. He's a conservative Catholic, which may upset some evangelicals, but they learned about anti-abortion politics from the Catholics and are happy that this pope has largely abandoned Catholic social justice teachings to focus on lady parts. Northern swing states, if they exist, have a lot of Catholics, so this won't hurt; the anti-Catholic southern whites hate Obama so much that they'll turn out anyway.
So here's the strategy. He wants to get the base excited, and rally as much Republican turnout as possible. He doesn't want his own history of moderation to keep the crazies away. He doesn't care about the moderates -- there are too few left to matter. The other half of the strategy is to suppress Democratic votes. This is why voter ID laws, limits on early voting, and other tricks are so central to their strategy. If they can suppress 5% of Democratic votes, they may be able to swing a few states.
They are otherwise acting from a position of weakness. Romney is the Bob Dole of 2012. They knew Clinton would be re-elected; Dole was the old stalwart who got to be the sacrificial lamb of 1996. The top strategists also know that Obama is now likely to be re-elected. They're willing to let Romney take the fall and let his VP pick gain prominence.
They also know that bringing out the base can make the difference in some Congressional elections. That is where the real fight will be. They can win the Senate or lose the House depending on turnout. And since some contested seats are in states where the presidential race isn't going to be close, they need to get their voters out anyway.
So expect Romney to continue to make "gaffes" that are really ways of cementing his connection to the extreme racist and even Anti-Semitic right. That's the strategy, and the J-school press (even NPR, which fawns over Ryan like a teenage girl over Justin Bieber) won't report it.
The Democratic answer is of course obvious. We need to get our base out too, and get a high turnout of our less-excited voters. We need to fight voter suppression. We need to have a huge GOTV effort and make sure that anyone who is turned away does submit a provisional ballot and follow up later. Some critical elections, even possibly the presidency, could be decided on provisional ballots. So the ground game will be super-critical this year.
Ryan proves that Romney isn't trying to poach the less-liberal end of the Democratic electorate. We don't lose them by sticking to our principles. We just have to make sure that we get everyone to the polls.