Romney's latest gaffe comes at the very moment when the glare of the media lights is brightest. Thousands of dollars were spent, hundreds of consultants and aides were engaged in creating the perfect ambiance for this historic announcement. The setting, the entrance to the moth-balled USS Wisconsin, in supposed deference to the boy-child-like Ryan, enfant terrible of the far right wing. The location, a key swing state that is slipping out of reach for the candidate from Bain & Company. The timing, at a point of desperation as Romney has sunk even in the Fox News poll, to a 9-point deficit, at the Dukakis-like figure of 40%.
Ignoring history, as all desperate men do, Romney caved to the likes of Erik Erikson, the Reason.com and Human Events fringists and the Wall Street Journal, and chose the only VP possibility who could upstage himself, the House Budget Chairman and architect of the plan to destroy Medicare. Just seven months before in the primary debates, Romney had sought to kookify and marginalize Gingrich by defending Medicare in the face of Newt's radical reform proposals to follow the Chilean model.
Now this morning, his campaign in free fall just weeks before the Tampa nominating convention, Romney introduced Ryan to the crowd: "Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan." And he promptly, even sheepishly, walked off the stage, coatless and in full deference mode, before the startled media and supporters. He managed to scamper back just before Ryan began his speech to try to recover from his bungled announcement, perhaps sent back out there by a furious Ann Romney, who had witnessed the full demasculation of her ambitious spouse.
Ryan, looking emboldened by Mitt's mistake to make that crowd his crowd, stood tall and confident, not betraying the least stage fright, and in full realization that his running mate had his arm twisted so hard by the hard-right extremists that he had no choice but to say, "Uncle!", or in this case, "the next President of the United States, Paul Ryan." From Ryan's standpoint, that would actually be the ideal outcome, and perhaps the only reason to accept a spot on this year's GOP slate: to play the role of VP candidate on a losing ticket for a few months and then to pivot after the November election, to being the journey to succeed the termed-out Obama in 2016, rather than suffer the humiliating political death sentence of being Vice President for four or eight years. As he gazed out into the crowd, one could imagine that Ryan did not see his role to carry water during this campaign for the amoral and politically rudder-less Romney.
Unlike the 2000 campaign where Clinton and Gore seemed to have never wanted to break apart from the fraternity-like atmosphere of their first bus trip together, in this case the clever Mr. Ryan will take leave of Big Mitt as early as Monday. He will make a solo appearance at--how interesting!--the Iowa State Fair, as if he were taking his first steps toward his own 2016 campaign, unfettered by his toxic, undisciplined and value-free running mate. Ryan, always a quick study who has been promoting his own ideological agenda throughout his seven terms in Congress, seems to have carefully studied Game Change, and is determined to not suffer the same fate as the hapless Palin, who was ultimately blamed for McCain's loss.
Neither the mainstream Beltway pundits, nor the right-wing partisan bloggers and propagandists are seeing Ryan's selection as something that removes the stench of likely defeat from Romney. Watch Ryan's moves as he continues to build the case for his ascendancy to the 2016 nomination, without even having to leave his safe Janesville seat. Far from being simply a Freudian slip of the tongue, Romney's gaffe was really more the wish fulfillment of his younger colleague. Looking back, the man from Bain may very well see his choice of Paul Ryan as the moment when he lost all possibility of moving into the White House next January. All the more reason, Willard, to build that mansion in La Jolla and the elevator for Ann's Cadillacs.
2:23 PM PT: UPDATE: Ryan just finished speaking at a rally at Manassas, Virginia, where he was introducing Romney. The crowd was pumped up when Ryan took the stage--a CNN reporter said she has never seen a Romney rally with such enthusiasm. As soon as Mitt began to speak, it was like a balloon quickly deflating. Even CNN broke away from Romney in mid-sentence.