Romney/Ryan: Still Working Out the Kinks

(NOTE: – My previous post was largely a response to a comment from my post two back, a comment that has prompted two other comments at that post, so it has a little life of its own.  Meanwhile, another reader hadn’t  realized you could leave a comment.  It is easy to miss.  If you look at the bottom of a post, there are various tags, etc. and right at the end of that list is “comments”.  Just letting you know.   Whether or not I respond to a particular comment depends on what I’m interested in talking about at that moment. )

In my previous two posts, I suggested that while solidifying its conservative base and attracting more campaign money, the Romney/Ryan teaming created an awkward situation for themselves in that Romney has avoided specifics like I do robo-calls, while Ryan totes many specifics into the relationship, like step children.  These include a specific plan to “save” Medicare and come to terms with our national yearly deficits and national debt which has earned him a reputation as a fiscal hawk.  However, exactly what will be left of Medicare after he saves it is open to question as are his credentials as a fiscal hawk.

Official portrait of Congressman .

Official portrait of Congressman . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The general wisdom is that these issues take attention away from what Romney really wants to talk about and that is the sluggish economy and Obama’s failure to live up to his promise to reduce unemployment.   But when you think about it, what more has Romney got to say?   Being a very successful businessman, he understands the economy better and will do better at growing it and producing more jobs.  Period.  He has a plan with fantasized cuts, but once again he doesn’t want to be pinned down on specifics.  So, what more does he really have to say and what is there for reporters to focus upon?

With Ryan there’s plenty.   Democrats and reporters have focused attention on the details of  Medicare as described in Ryan’s most recent plan and the differences between Ryan’s plan to deal with the debt, which is detailed, and Romney’s which is not.

I don’t believe the R & R team wants to deal with either issue, but they are putting on a brave face and talking like they want to do battle on Medicare  since the topic won’t go away, sort of like General Custer and the Sioux.   Also, they want to pretend that their fiscal plans  are basically the same, even though there are noteworthy differences.  In the process, they have had difficulty integrating their past statements and coordinating their present overall message.

Yesterday they were in New Hampshire together.  A campaign spokesman emphasized how Romney is energized and made more personable by Ryan.  That’s nice.  But I think they needed to stick together like conjoined twins for a day or two trying to get their message straight.

Exhibit A:  Message, message, whose got the message?  Last Tuesday, Ryan was interviewed by Brit Hume on Fox, who doggedly questioned him about the differences between Ryan’s budget plan and Romney’s.   Questions Ryan did not welcome.  Matt Miller, a  centrist well familiar with Ryan’s budgets and who actually can do the numbers, describes the questioning better than I could in a two-page  Washington Post editorial I suggest you read.

There he makes two key points.  1)    Ryan did not want to say out loud that his budget doesn’t balance out until the 2030’s.   Twenty years to balance the budget?   That doesn’t sound like a  “fiscal conservative,” but it’s necessary if raising taxes is not an option.   2)  There are some key differences between Ryan’s plan and the more sketchy Romney one, but the fiscal wonk hadn’t gotten around to really integrating them.   As Miller puts it, Ryan was ” betting Hume is too dumb, uninterested or short on time to press ” these points.   Too bad, Paul.  Good for you, Brit.  Please read the editorial.

Exhibit B:   Do they really want the Medicare fight?  The Romney/Ryan campaign stop in New Hampshire yesterday began with this talking point regarding Medicare:  How Obama has robbed Medicare of $716 billion to pay for Obamacare.  Earlier that morning I heard a couple of campaign surrogates make the same point, while in unison asserting that this is a fight Romney welcomes.   If so, why have they kicked off the battle with a talking point that is both hypocritical and misleading?  Is that the best they got?

First, the Obama team was not alone in proposing these “cuts”.  According to ABC the $716 billion appear in the House Republicans’ FY 2013 budget, which Ryan authored.   There they were called “Medicare savings -achieved through reduced provider reimbursements and curbed waste, fraud and abuse, not benefit cuts “.

In other words, Paul Ryan’s budget plan included the same so-called  “cuts” by Obama, and like him, talked about them as “savings”.  Could Ryan’s railing at the Obama “cuts” be any more hypocritical?   Well, it should be noted that in the Brit Hume interview Ryan did make this distinction:  “We’re the ones who are not raiding Medicare to pay for Obamcare.”   They would use those “savings” (not “cuts”)  for deficit reductions or something else.

Point well taken, but that point is so yesterday.  It seems that all those ads attacking Obama for “raiding” Medicare of $716 billion has created a problem of its own.   If the “cuts” were bad, they needed to be cut from Ryan’s plan, too (which seems now the case), so  Romney could promise to restore those dastardly “cuts” when he becomes president.  Smearing Obama as cutting Medicare, Romney seems to feel implicated himself if he doesn’t promise to restore them, even if it doesn’t make sense to do so.  Click to see the short piece from ABC for more details.

If you find what I just wrote to be confusing, I admit that perhaps I could have said it better, but the subject matter is confusing in itself, because I believe the subjects are confused.

At times I think of trying to develop a sideline as a “message stylist,” someone who helps others trim and shape their message for more impact.  The Romney/Ryan team really could use a lot of help in that regard and I sure could use the money, but the “message” so far looks so disingenuous and contradictory that I doubt I’m up to the challenge.

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“You Like Me. You Really Like Me!”: The Paul Ryan Selection

When I first heard of Paul Ryan’s selection as  Mitt Romney’s VP candidate, I didn’t know what to make of it, other than the campaign suddenly seemed more interesting.   In my previous post, I referred to Mitt as the “stealth candidate, ”  given his tendency to avoid the details of his personal history as governor, businessman and Mormon leader.

paul-ryan-grannie

paul-ryan-grannie (Photo credit: Majordomo2012)

The Democrat dogs have stuck their teeth into the evasions, such as why he refuses to show more of his income taxes.  Every day we do not talk about the sludge-like economy is a good day for Democrats.   Well, to change the focus, how about a startling pick for VP ?   Especially if that pick reminds us that our problems go much deeper than Romney’s tax returns.

That seems part of the reason the  “artful dodger” picked someone like Paul Ryan, despite his having a specific history, often not in keeping with his public image as fiscal hawk, that is already being focused upon and flayed by the Democrats.   In picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney moved the focus away from him to our overall financial problems.  Also, as columnist George Will wrote, he was “talking conservative.”   This was his way to prove to his conservative critics that he is indeed one of them.   Sure, he’s  been saying for months that he is a conservative, but his etch-a-sketch ways  hadn’t convinced them.

However, now that the warm, bonding moment has past, it will be interesting to see if Romney’s habit of not wanting to go into specifics  fits with his running mate’s coming equipped with all sorts of details for both reporters and the Democrats to dwell on.  Such as the what-will-happen-to-medicare question and what kind of fiscal conservative is Ryan if his plan takes us to around 2030 to balance the budget.   Sure, the Democrats are open to counter attacks, such as there is no foreseeable time they balance the budget, but there might be if the Republicans would bend on their no new taxes pledges.

Other than solidifying his base, taking the attention off such things as his refusal to show more tax returns and attracting more money for his campaign (but don’t they have plenty as is?),  I don’t see what good the Ryan pick will do for Romney.   They want us to  believe that in picking Ryan , Romney is not afraid to make the bold choices required in our time, but as I’ve indicated the Ryan image of fiscal hawk will not likely hold up after being gone over with numerous fine tooth combs in the days ahead.

What will hold up is the image of his destroying Medicare as we know it – shoving granny down the stairs – even though for fairness sake it should be noted that at least Ryan has a plan to save something akin to Medicare.  It is unclear to me how the Democrats will try to save it, so granny remains in jeopardy in either case.  But the Democrats  seem likely to win this battle of images.  MY CONFESSION:  I CHOSE THE PHOTO, WHICH IS TOTALLY UNFAIR, BECAUSE I GOT A KICK OUT OF IT.

Also, leaving all doubts about Ryan aside for a moment,  I doubt that the cautious Mitt can continue to reap benefits from his choice.   Romney doesn’t want to deal with specifics, so I bet Ryan becomes more like Romney than vice versa, another artful dodger.   And if Ryan stays too much like Ryan, i.e. a darling of the right, well, that can’t be good for Mitt, either.   The star shouldn’t be upstaged by his supporting cast, and doesn’t it feel like he already is?

Here’s my thinking, at base Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan because like most of us he wants to be liked and he has been running for months while mostly being just tolerated, as the candidate who wouldn’t go away and had the money and organization to just stay and stay and stay.  If his  strategy of being the Un-Obama had been really working of late, he would not have picked Ryan.   But that not being the case, why not  go bold?  Even button down types like Romney sport a wild hair.

Those old enough to remember Sally Field receiving an Oscar for Places of the Heart in 1985, probably recall that in her acceptance speech she screamed out:  “You like me.  You really like me!”

Well, Mitt, you’ve had your warm, fuzzy moment.  Now I will be curious to see if in November enough citizens overall will show they like you, they really like you.