Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin: same as it ever was
The parallels between 2008 and 2012 ring true.
On the first day of my vacation in 2008, the GOP nominee chose his running mate. The nominee was a former moderate who moved to the right and had been denied the nomination in a previous attempt for the GOP nomination. The GOP nominee picked a relatively unknown, much younger politician who appealed more to the base than the independents needed for victory.
The only thing that really changed in 2012 was the location of my vacation (Buffalo — 2008, Lake Louise, AB, Canada — 2012).
Okay, Paul Ryan is visibly smarter than Sarah Palin, and he won’t use the word “lipstick” in his speech on Wednesday. In terms of the race, Ryan and Palin serve the same purpose.
Then again, the GOP has a long tradition of using the VP role to strengthen the base. Dick Cheney leaps to mind as does Dan Quayle, Spiro Agnew, and Richard Nixon. The GOP’s tradition is so strong that the last time any party forced out a sitting vice president was the Republicans in 1976 when they told Gerald Ford that Nelson Rockefeller was too liberal for them to support.
So does it matter that Paul Ryan is the VP nominee for the GOP in 2012?
In the initial days of the Palin pick, she was seen as a game changer, a Hail Mary selection that shook up the establishment. We found out later, yeah, not so much.
In the initial days of the Ryan pick, he was seen as a game changer, a Hail Mary selection that shook up the establishment. Other than rallying a few more Republicans to come out and vote, seeing Ryan’s advantage in the race is like viewing San Francisco when the fog rolls into the bay.
Todd Akin took his lumps for his “legitimate rape” comments but his views are shared by quite a few Republicans and Ryan’s views on abortion for rape and incest victims falls into Akin’s line and the GOP platform — no exceptions.
Under bills that Ryan co-sponsored in the House (H.B. 3), if you are a victim of rape or incest and you get pregnant, no abortion for you.
The unraveling of Sarah Palin was a fluke on numerous levels so a repeat of that is not likely. The questions Palin received from less than stellar journalists such as Charles Gibson and Katie Couric weren’t that hard. Only because the answers were so out there did we get that unraveling.
Though Paul Ryan is more known to the political pundits than Palin was in 2008, the general public still knows very little about the person who would become the next vice president of the United States.
One thing we do know about Paul Ryan is that he is a current House member, and House members don’t often get to be at the top of the ticket. James Garfield is one of three House members to run for the presidency and the only one to win. Henry Clay (1824) and John Anderson (1980) finish off the list; Clay was one of four major candidates while Anderson ended up being an independent after losing out in Republican primaries.
The last House member to make the VP slot in a major party ticket was Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. Ferraro’s pick was seen as bold, but ultimately made little impact.
Ryan and Palin have a similar generational age gap with their presidential nominee. John McCain was 71 while Palin was 44 in 2008; Mitt Romney is 65 while Ryan is 42. While Palin was the center of questions about her viability given McCain’s age, those same questions should be asked about Ryan given Romney’s age.
America can handle a relatively younger president. After all, Bill Clinton was 46 when elected in 1992 and Barack Obama was 47 when elected in 2008. Though, they did run at the top of the ticket and both were Democratic.
There is a certain appeal to having a Gen X candidate on a top ticket, though the president in the other party is also in Gen X. But Republicans haven’t learned that just because your candidate is young doesn’t mean young people will vote for you. This is about what you stand for, not your demographic info. Besides, that would be like picking Sarah Palin thinking women will vote for your ticket because you have a woman on the ticket. Oops.
Partisans will point out the relative inexperience of Obama in comparison to Ryan, and the fact that Romney is apparently in great shape for being 65. True, though Obama went with experience in his vice president in Joe Biden and Romney being healthy for his age isn’t as relevant because you never know what can happen. The vice president needs to be ready; Biden is ready, but is Ryan?
Picking someone younger and relatively inexperienced (Ryan has had only two sponsored bills passed in 12 years of Congress and one of those was to rename a post office) isn’t a bad thing if you feel like you’ve picked someone who is well-qualified for the role.
Paul Ryan wasn’t selected for that reason; neither was Sarah Palin. They weren’t picked because they could take over. Bill Clinton, himself 46, picked Al Gore, 44, as his running mate. Gore’s experience and background dwarfs Ryan’s record.
A presidential candidate’s first major decision is to select a running mate. The pick points to a leader’s character and credibility. What kind of leader will the candidate be? Picking a running mate speaks volumes to what they think of the role of the vice president. Bill Clinton wasn’t afraid to pick someone who could have overshadowed his record.
John McCain and Mitt Romney picked running mates to satisfy the base, thinking very little about their subsequent roles as a vice president and possible president. They saw George H.W. Bush get away with such a pick in Dan Quayle in 1988. Quayle’s experience was more balanced than Ryan, but when Quayle compared his length of service to John F. Kennedy, that is when Lloyd Bentsen said, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
At the RNC Convention in 2008, Sarah Palin gave a better speech than John McCain, a very bad sign for a campaign even if it sounds good inside a convention hall. Paul Ryan will likely give a better speech than Mitt Romney, based on his response to the State of the Union address in 2011. As good a speaker as Joe Biden is (when he stays on script), Barack Obama will outdo Biden in Charlotte.
Ryan is a one-trick pony, a mouthpiece to sell the austerity and emphasis on defense spending at the expense of domestic spending. How Ryan would handle elements outside the budget will hopefully be addressed. Waiting until the Biden-Ryan debate will likely be too late.
Ryan will be the first VP nominee to run for two posts since Joe Lieberman in 2000. The senator from Connecticut ran for his Senate position as well as vice president. Rob Zerban is Ryan’s House opponent from the Democratic Party. Lieberman seemed to be more interested in his Senate post than in being vice president. If Paul Ryan becomes more distracted toward VP, Zerban has a shot at an upset.
Republicans like VP candidates with little experience; Democratic folk like VP candidates with experience. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin fit that role for the GOP, but the question is whether that will translate into votes in November.