Mitt Romney’s decision to choose Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate was greeted with almost as much happiness in Democratic as Republican circles on Saturday, though for diametrically different reasons.
President Obama’s reelection team labeled the seven-term congressman as a “radical” even before he spoke to accept the slot offered by Romney.
Messina also attacked Ryan for having “rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit” and insisted that “the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same catastrophic mistakes.”
In short order, Obama’s official YouTube channel released a 90-second video which opened with footage of Ryan and the claim, “Paul Ryan is the mastermind behind the extreme GOP budget plan.”
Condemnations would have been issued from Chicago regardless of who Romney had picked to be his running mate. But, in interviews with The Hill, Democratic insiders seemed genuinely gleeful that Romney had chosen a man who his critics believe can be cast as a hardliner who pursues abstract fiscal ideas at the expense of middle-class families.
"I haven't been this happy waking up since I was 12 and got a BMX for Christmas," said one top Democrat working for an outside group that is helping to reelect Obama. "The Romney-Ryan plan is a complete crystallization of the two visions for this country. The Republicans: tax cuts for millionaires and ending Medicare as we know it; and the Democrats: growing a strong middle class."
A former senior administration official agreed.
"I think we're all licking our chops this morning," the former official said. "The president has spent the last several months attacking the Republican budget and who better to be the VP pick than Ryan? Fits into our narrative in the best possible way."
Ryan backs major changes to Medicare and Social Security. His most recent plan called for the elimination of capital gains tax, a move that would most benefit wealthy investors.
Obama in April condemned Ryan’s latest plan as “a Trojan horse.”
“Disguised as a deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country," he said. "It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism.”
Obama partisans contend that, in choosing Ryan, Romney almost instantly shifted from a platform that they believed lacked economic specifics to one that has plenty of specifics — many of which are unpopular.
“Given that there have been two elections back to back where the party linked to Medicare cuts was the party that took it on the chin, it seems that the defining aspect of Ryan is going to be an issue Romney is having to play defense on right from the beginning,” said longtime Democratic strategist Chris Lehane.
"The media elites will love this pick for 48 hours because they believe Ryan is a man of ideas," said Steve Elmendorf, who served as deputy campaign manager for Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) 2004 presidential bid. "The problem is that his ideas are all hugely unpopular with independents in swing states. His views on Medicare and Social Security are on the far fringe of even the Republican Party."
Still, one former administration official cautioned that Ryan represented an improvement on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican veep choice from four years ago.
"They got someone well-spoken who doesn't inherently scare the crap out of everyday Americans. Relative to their last pick, it's brilliant," the former official said.