The Paul Ryan Paradox: GOP ‘Ideas Man’ Playing Conventional Campaign Role

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BuzzFeed has aggregated footage of Paul Ryan on the campaign telling the same joke over and over, in nearly the same blue shirt:

It’s not really fair to rap Ryan for trotting out the same material, if that’s the point of posting the video. Traveling the country delivering facsimiles of the same speech to different audiences is what candidates do, just as stand-up comics sling the same zingers night after night. But the fact that the riff has a fixed place in Ryan’s routine is telling, and not just because bureaucratic dysfunction is a Republican theme. Paul Ryan, darling of the conservative intelligentsia, the party’s reigning Ideas Man, is serving up a lot of jocular patter on the stump these days. His routine is sprinkled with jokes and jabs, humanizing details and genuflection to local traditions. Again, this is what politicians do. But Ryan was supposed to be different. Watching his first two weeks as vice-presidential nominee of the GOP, you might get the sense that Mitt Romney picked Ryan for his ice-fishing prowess and knack for needling President Obama, not because he’s the architect of a sweeping plan to address the nation’s budget crisis.

The way Romney’s team has deployed Ryan is striking in light of the reputation he built during seven terms on Capitol Hill. Ryan’s spot on the ticket is the unlikely product of a long and lonely ideological crusade. (It wasn’t until the Tea Party takeover of 2010 that Republican leaders fully embraced his road map to overhaul the U.S. entitlement system.) Romney touts his running mate as a budget wonk, an intellectual leader with a distinct vision and the tenacity to implement it.

But as Romney’s No. 2, Ryan has been recast in a relatively conventional role: an upbeat, telegenic, manifestly smart politician who connects well with crowds. He has jettisoned the budget jargon and embraced familiar Republican tropes that energize audiences. His rallies are laced with references to Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment. He makes teleprompter jokes. At a stop in Pennsylvania this week, Ryan — a devout Catholic and ardent outdoorsman — told the crowd he was “happy to be clinging to my guns and religion,” invoking a four-year-old remark in which Obama appeared to speak derisively about those things.

Ryan’s line was not just a dig at the President but also part of a concerted effort to define the vice-presidential candidate, 42, for Republican and independent voters. Right now the GOP ticket seems as intent on showcasing Ryan’s biography as his budgets. At a homecoming rally in Wisconsin, Ryan told the crowd that his “veins run with cheese, bratwurst and a little Spotted Cow, Leinie’s and some Miller.” In Pittsburgh, he waved a Terrible Towel; at the Iowa state fair, he swapped tips on cow milking. Strolling the fairgrounds, he parried questions from reporters: “We’ll play stump the running mate later.”

Ryan is known on Capitol Hill as someone willing to spar with the press over policy. As vice-presidential nominee, his exchanges with the media have been in short supply. “I don’t want to get wonky on you,” Ryan has told interlocutors when pressed for details. For days, the best interaction his traveling press corps got was a hard-won peace sign, flashed from the front of the plane. Meanwhile, Ryan’s reputation for wonkiness has served as a stand-in for policy specifics. Romney tried the same during a recent news conference in South Carolina, scrawling a comparison of the two parties’ Medicare plans on a whiteboard. The display was a reminder of his number-crunching acumen; never mind that the analysis amounted to little more than asking voters if they preferred Medicare to bust the budget or not.

When he has discussed Medicare, Ryan has done so gingerly, emphasizing the President’s “raid” on the program to pay for Obamacare and the fact that current seniors get to keep the status quo. As Dave Weigel wrote:

Ryan alternates between the specific, like when the plans would switch over, and the vague. He’ll keep “the promise” of Medicare, which is different than keeping Medicare as it is. He’ll keep a “guarantee” of coverage, which is different than keeping it a full-coverage entitlement. I don’t see anyone who’s already inclined to vote Republican having a problem with this.

This is the paradox of Ryan’s role in the race: he’s on the ticket to imbue it with ideological heft, but political caution preempts discussion of his signature ideas. “We want this debate,” Ryan likes to say about the brewing battle over Medicare. “We need this debate, and we are going to win this debate.” But so far, the Romney campaign hasn’t deviated much from the traditional script.

45 comments
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bobell
bobell

What "sweeping plan to address the nation's budget crisis"? What he has is a "ridiculous plan that will exacerbate the nation's budget crisis."

How about the media calling things what they are instead of accepting the Republicals' false labels like a herd of sheep?

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

http://www.eschatonblog.com/20...

Since one can't have an informed opinion about Paul Ryan without having interviewed him, it might be prudent not to vote for him. At least not until you have a chance to interview him.

David Brooks has interviewed Ryan, and thinks he's swell. 

You people who will be adversely affected by his policies are not entitled to an opinion, because you haven't interviewed him.

~

bobell
bobell

I've heard him answer questions.  I know what he's full of.  But I've already been exiled to moderation once today, so I can't say.

tdinct
tdinct

"When he has discussed Medicare, Ryan’s done so gingerly, emphasizing the

President’s “raid” on the program..."

Ahh, no...  that's not discussing it "gingerly" that's discussing it deceitfully.  What's the word...  oh yes.  He's lying.

bobell
bobell

Paul Lyin' anyone?

outsider2011
outsider2011

 Thanks Alex.

I think Romney just wants to win, and instead of playing to Ryans strengths - if he has any that can't be knocked down by the dems, he's running a conventional campaign.

He seems oblivious to the fact that people know Obama inherited the economy, and still blame bush for it.

And he's just sprouting all the same lines that the GOP has been spouting since Reagan.

They aren't utilizing Ryan properly.

Which, yo know - as a left leaning guy, is fine with me.

But the naivety is kind of striking.

People kind of like Ryan. They don't like Romney.

But the GOP ticket doesn't want to discuss anything BUT Obama.

 

Jodi Cassell
Jodi Cassell

Not only is he taking a typical partisan hack role, but he can't even be original about his criticisms.  "death panels" really paul - 2009 much?  He's just a more well-spoken Palin.  But I am glad that his House crazy-ness is getting exposed to the light ... the more people know about this arrogant twerp, the less likely he is to get voted in ...hopefully wisconsin will send him home too!  It'd be nice to have him completely off the national stage.

rokinsteve
rokinsteve

Paul Ryan: The man with a tax plan that leads us back to 2008 and the George Bush disaster.  A Highway to Nowhere.

charlieromeobravo
charlieromeobravo

They're touting Ryan as the GOP "ideas man" so they can talk about how the Romney campaign is all about ideas while still not discussing any ideas.  And avoiding discussing ideas they supported in the past.

Tero1
Tero1

I am glad "Ideas Man" is put in parenthesis. Ryan's "ideas" are the same old, tired Republican fairy tales that Reagan trotted out decades ago.

Sue_N.
Sue_N.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that Ryan isn't, and has never been, really an "ideas man", any more than he's really a "fiscal/deficit hawk," and that his so-called "budget plan" doesn't come anywhere near balancing the budget …

Doesn't it seem just a tad ironic that the right, which has made contempt for the intellect almost a party platform plank, keeps touting Ryan as a wonk and an intellectual?

It's almost like they realize, even if only dimly, that intellegince is actually important, though they still can't quite grasp just what that means.

filmnoia
filmnoia

Alex Altman -

You really insult our intelligence.To call Ryan the GOP "Ideas Man" is the same thing as saying that "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."

outsider2011
outsider2011

 I think he was just saying that's how Ryan is described.

bobell
bobell

Alex needs to attend Irony Practice each day.

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

"“veins run with cheese, bratwurst, and a little Spotted Cow, Leinie’s and some Miller.”"

What exactly does cheese or bratwurst in the blood tell us about a politician? 

I don't think this is difficult. Romney is trying to hide the fact that he wants to put a radical, right-wing extremist, close to the seat of power. A man whose political philosophy does not include concepts like "empathy", flying in the face of the Christian principles he supposedly represents. But why would Romney care about Christianity, when he is on the path to becoming a God himself?

rokinsteve
rokinsteve

You can add meatballs and pasta to the cheese and brats so he's right at home with the Mafia at his church service.   

Pollopa
Pollopa

There is nothing endearing about thinking this man is a step away from the US Presidency if elected.  Just imagine this for a few seconds, it won't take a minute. Romney kicks the bucket, and we have Ryan in the chair making decisions based on his wonkiness. What ever happend to picking someone who can fill the position if called upon? Twice now the republicans have gone for stir up the crazy base not solidify the conservative base, and work on the indepedents.  I and the rest of the democrats are more than happy to see the R squared ticket.  Doubling down on stupid seems the only play the republicans have. I've said before, when Obama wins a second the rightwing are going to implode, and the true conservatives and libertarians are going to say I told you so. This will ensure the republican party loses its majority party status in more states than Washington.

Don Ramsey
Don Ramsey

Ryan is a one trick pony. Fortunately the pony is a disguised poodle, so it is readily trained.

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo...

When Mitt Romney signs legislation fully repealing Obamacare, he’ll be setting a time bomb. Not for the uninsured, who will simply continue to go without health care coverage, but for the very Medicare recipients whose benefits Romney’s promising to leave untouched.By overturning the Affordable Care Act, Romney will restore major spending commitments to the program — billions of dollars worth of higher reimbursements for private insurance companies and hospitals that Obama cut out of the program.Because Medicare is built upon a trust fund accounting system, that commitment — $700 billion over the next 10 years — will deplete the program’s existing finances and hasten its insolvency by years. In 2016, under Romney’s plan, Medicare will be out of money, and he and Congress will likely have to choose between finding other savings in the program, raising Medicare taxes, abruptly slashing benefits for current seniors, or a combination thereof.

bobell
bobell

Wanna bet on which he'll select?

Hint: slashing benefits.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Alex. Ryan has lots of practice rehashing same ol’ jokes, talking points, and ideas. His “ideas” are leftover Ayn Rand evangels + longtime Republican hatred of Medicare and Social Security. Never mind that he’s not really a “fiscal hawk” either after supporting TARP and the Bush Wars™. And now he has to distance himself from his ally Akin too. What’s left for him to embrace? You’d think he’s acting like Mitt Romney or something.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith

Bill Clinton helped sink his wife's chances for an endorsement from Ted Kennedy by belittling Barack Obama as nothing but a race-based candidate.

"A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee," the former president told the liberal lion from Massachusetts, according to the gossipy new campaign book, "Game Change."

The book says Kennedy was deeply offended and recounted the conversation to friends with fury.

After Kennedy sided with Obama, Clinton reportedly griped, "the only reason you are endorsing him is because he's black. Let's just be clear."

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

When he has discussed Medicare, Ryan’s done so gingerly, emphasizing the President’s “raid” on the program to pay for Obamacare and the fact that current seniors get to keep the status quo.

Okay....this is the part when you then add, "analysis by economists familiar with both plans indicate that both these statements are utterly false.

Tero1
Tero1

He's just trying to be "fair and balanced". Everything is equal, didn't you get the memo? It's all a wash. Best to throw your hands up in the air and mumble something about politicians being scum.

Sue_N.
Sue_N.

Dude, the narrative. THE NARRATIVE!!!

Jebus …

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

This is the paradox of Ryan’s role in the race: he’s on the ticket to imbue it with ideological heft, but political caution preempts discussion of his signature ideas."

774 words might be better spent telling us why "political caution preempts discussion of his signature ideas." We already know he's a fraud.

cent_fan
cent_fan

"This is the paradox of Ryan’s role in the race: he’s on the ticket to imbue it with ideological heft, but political caution preempts discussion of his signature ideas."

That's because his ideas bring his "ideological heft" to the fore and for the same reason Romney is the nominee instead of Bachmann the Republican Party can't actually admit what they really want to do in a mixed public and still win.

MomentoMori
MomentoMori

Who calls him an "Ideas Man"?

The only folks who think Ryan is an "Ideas Man" are the RNC and the people who write the intros for the Sunday News programs.

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

Ryan as ideas man makes about as much sense as calling Neutron an intellectual. When you are surrounded by pygmies, you don't have to be very tall.

Neil Chapman
Neil Chapman

It seems pretty smart to me.  If you're trying to get people comfortable with you as a politician you don't run around with different messages.  That would be confusing and give red meat to your detractors.  

Most people don't have a clue who Congressmen Ryan is.  They don't recognize his face, let alone his message.  I think your criticism is disingenuous.  Romney/Ryan are framing the discussion.  Be honest, do you really think Obama/Biden would even be discussing Medicare if Paul Ryan had not been chosen?  They'd still be harping on Romney's taxes.  What a waste of energy that is.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

Speaking of Rmoney...

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com...

When Romney left in 1999, he and his wife retained significant investments in many of those Bain vehicles—he claims they are “passive investments” and that they are managed in a blind trust (though the trustee isn’t blind enough to meet federal standards of independence). But aside from disparate snippets of information contained in his federal and Massachusetts financial disclosure forms, his 2010 tax returns, and SEC filings, the nature of those investments has been obfuscated by design.

~

Jodi Cassell
Jodi Cassell

Yep and the more the know him, the more they will begin to hate his ugly hypocritical mug - as I do ever since I heard about his budget "plan".

AfGuyReturns
AfGuyReturns

Define "address"...

Fix it?  Make it worse?  Blow it up? What?

Many a golfer has "addressed" a shot with disastrous results... in a lot of cases, observers can tell what's going to happen by analyzing the stance and conditions and KNOW the result is going to stink.

A pity our political observers can't do the same... they WANT to see a great shot for a player or team so badly they can taste it.... and will adjust their analysis accordingly.

ERenger
ERenger

Let me fix Ryan's quote:

“We want this debate,” Ryan likes to say about the brewing battle over Medicare. “We need this debate, but we are never going to have this debate.”

jmac
jmac

"He's on the ticket to imbue it with ideological heft."   He's on the ticket because Romney likes the cheering crowds and it was the only way to get them.  Neither of them have forgotten Frank Luntz and the drumbeat of talking points - because at the end of the day  they believe it's the way to get the media on board and win the day. 

If they ran on their actual message, they'd be toast as reporters tip-toe around their actual message.   

bobell
bobell

"Ideological heft"?  How much does bullshiat weigh?

MrObvious
MrObvious

The Sarah Palimorphous of the game changing ideaificator.