Opinion: GOP has good reason to worry about Paul Ryan on presidential ticket

No one wants to say it out loud. But the political professionals are saying quietly that Mitt Romney conceded the presidential race by putting Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on his ticket.

The muzzle is on for good reason.

GOP strategist Mark McKinnon was hammered when he said out loud Romney’s pick of Ryan means the GOP ticket will “probably lose – Maybe big.”

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The Wall Street Journal belittled the former adviser to President George W. Bush for speaking out.

They hilariously called him a member of the Republican “Bedwetter Caucus.”

The problem with that putdown is that Democratic political insiders are saying the same thing – Ryan hurts Romney and helps President Obama.

So we have a bipartisan judgment.


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Ryan simply comes with too much political baggage for a successful national presidential campaign.

He does not help Romney to win Ohio, Florida or Virginia. His focus on budget cutting is out of step with the voters’ focus on creating jobs.

All of this is hurting Romney’s effort to win core constituencies, particularly senior citizens – but also moderate women and the large middle of the American electorate, independents.

The best that can be said about the pick is that Ryan is extremely popular with the activist right-wing base.

True believers who doubted Romney as a Massachusetts moderate are thrilled by Ryan’s presence on the ticket.

What those conservatives do not seem to fully appreciate is that there is a whole other world outside of the House GOP caucus, the talk radio universe and the conservative blogosphere.

And in that wider world – where the election will be decided – Ryan does not help Romney win a single vote that he did not already have locked up.

That is why the GOP ticket did not get a bounce from the Ryan announcement.

According to the first USA Today-Gallup Poll taken after the Ryan announcement, 42 percent of Americans say he is “only fair” or “poor” as a vice presidential choice.

He did get a rating of “excellent” or “pretty good” from 39 percent.

By comparison, 37 percent of voters rated Sarah Palin’s selection four years ago as “fair” or “poor,” while 46 percent said it “excellent” or “good.”

Ryan’s poll numbers are the lowest initial numbers for a vice presidential pick since George H.W. Bush picked Dan Quayle in 1988.

And the reason for this is no secret.

As chair of the GOP House Budget Committee, Ryan wrote a budget that ends Medicare as a guaranteed healthcare plan and replaces it with untested voucher system for private insurance.

He subsequently agreed to a proposal to allow people over 55 to keep their existing plan. But the Congressional Budget Office says the Ryan plan will have the effect of driving up health care costs for everyone, including those over 55.

Since 2005, Ryan has also expressed strong support for President Bush's failed proposal to privatize social security.

In May of 2011, when Congress first considered the Ryan budget, CNN/ORC polled on its popularity.

Seventy-four percent of all senior citizens polled disapproved of the plan. Fifty-eight percent of Americans of all ages did not approve.  Even 54 percent of self-described conservatives said they disapproved of the budget.

After picking Ryan, Romney campaigned throughout the state of Florida – a state with a large senior population.  

Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, is widely viewed as a “must win” state for Romney.

Recall that Obama won Florida in 2008 by less than 3 percentage points.

Over 30 percent of registered voters in Florida are over the age of 60 – so Romney can ill afford to alienate old voters.

But when Romney arrived in the Sunshine State to campaign, he was greeted with criticism of the Ryan pick that hardly bodes well for the fall.   

Here are some of the headlines from major Florida newspapers last week: The Miami Herald: “Ryan could hurt Romney in Florida.”

The Tampa Bay Times: “In Florida, Medicare is unavoidable topic.”  The Bradenton Herald: “Ryan Could be Drag in Florida.” Indian River Press Journal: “Ryan may be liability in Florida.” The Miami Herald again: “Medicare Shadows Romney in Florida.”

The GOP's only hope for victory is to distract people from Ryan's attempt to end the Medicare guarantee by reviving anger among seniors at President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Romney and Ryan have already started by claiming in their campaign speeches, and in a TV ad, that President Obama “robbed $716 billion to pay for ObamaCare.”

Never mind that independent fact-checkers, ranging from ABC News to Politifact, have rated this claim as false. Never mind that Ryan's own budget calls for the same cuts, only he puts the burden on people seeking medical help as opposed to the medical industry. Obama’s plan keeps the Medicare guarantee.

And any senior who checks will find that Obama’s plan closes the Medicare donut hole. He also cracks down on Medicare fraud creating more value to Medicare beneficiaries.

Maybe it is good news for Romney that no one is talking about his failure to lay out any plan for reviving the economy.

The bad news is that the burden of proof is now on Romney-Ryan to prove to voters they don't want to destroy Medicare and Social Security.

This will be very difficult to do. That is why the Republican “Bedwetter Caucus,” is growing.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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