A plurality of Americans are not enthusiastic about Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.
Forty-two percent said they viewed Ryan’s candidacy as a “fair” or “poor” move by the Romney campaign, compared to 39 percent who said it was an “excellent” or “pretty good” choice.
According to historical data from USA Today/Gallup, the last vice-presidential candidate to perform worse in the poll after being unveiled as a presidential candidate’s running mate was former Vice President Dan Quayle in 1988. A majority of Americans, 52 percent, said Quayle was a “fair” or “poor” pick at the time.
Forty-eight percent said Ryan would be ready to step in as president if the situation should arise, versus 29 percent who said he was not ready, and 23 percent who were undecided. Quayle and Palin were the only candidates to score worse on that question, according to USA Today/Gallup.
Romney campaign pollster Neil Newhouse attributed the low marks to Ryan not being widely known outside of Washington or his home state of Wisconsin.
“All these numbers indicate is the simple fact that Congressman Paul Ryan was not a nationally known figure prior to being named as Gov. Romney's vice-presidential pick,” he told USA Today.
Both sides have moved quickly to define Ryan to those who might not know him.
Democrats have tried to paint the seven-term lawmaker as outside the mainstream, with senior campaign advisers to President Obama David Axelrod and Stephanie Cutter blasting the House Budget Committee chairman’s fiscal plans in television appearances on Sunday.
The Obama campaign has focused its attacks on the Ryan budget, which would cut $5 trillion, overhaul the tax code and shift Medicare to a subsidized private insurance model.
But Ryan is a popular figure among Republicans. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday showed his favorability rating among conservative Republicans spiked over the weekend, from 49 percent positive to 70. Overall, 38 percent of Americans said they have a favorable view of the Wisconsin representative, compared to 33 negative.
The Romney campaign is hoping Ryan's message of fiscal responsibility, coupled with a detailed budget-cutting plan, will resonate with voters outside the conservative movement.
Senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom suggested that the Ryan choice would elevate the GOP campaign into a serious discussion about debt and the growth of government — something, he said, for which voters would reward Republicans.
The USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,006 American adults was conducted on Sunday and has a 4 percent margin of error. The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted from Aug. 8 to 12 and has a 4.5 percent margin of error for respondents before Ryan was selected for the ticket and a 5.5 pecent margin of error after.