Noam Schreiber of The New Republic makes an interesting argument here, to the effect that the selection of Paul Ryan is essentially an admission by Romney that he’s about to lose the election. I think that’s an obvious conclusion to draw as well – the entire case for Romney with the electorate is that he somehow has a “moderate” track record and is not captive to the hardcore Right. Choosing the darling of the Tea Party market fundamentalist ayatollahs pretty clearly does not send that message. Essentially, Romney has chosen, with eyes wide open, to repeat the mistake John McCain made by putting Sarah Palin on the ticket. There was nothing more fatal to the image of John McCain as a “moderate” than signing on with Palin, and with Romney’s choice of Ryan, I think we can consider “Romney the moderate” as truly no longer anything but a figment of our collective imagination.
But why would Romney do this, you may ask? Doesn’t he want to be President? That is a difficult question to answer. I’m not sure I understand it.
Perhaps he is doing some kind of Huey Long strategy here. Huey Long openly told people that he planned to run a third-party Share-The-Wealth campaign in 1936, split the vote, watch as the Republican slid up on the right to beat Roosevelt and then govern horribly – all so Long could then run as a Democrat in 1940 and win. Perhaps Romney has a similar strategy? This article suggests he wants to run now, lose, and presumably pin the responsibility for the loss on hardcore right-wingers. That might make sense if we could assume the Republicans will win the Congressional elections, harass Obama for four years and demand just enough austerity measures to gut the recovery. Then Obama would end up being unpopular at the end of term number two, and Romney could come in riding on a white horse (pardon me, an “Anglo-Saxon” horse) to save the day from Evil Obama.
But that ends up sounding like a conspiracy theory to me given that the biggest drop in Romney’s popularity came not just after he announced Ryan as a choice (indeed, I haven’t seen any polling about that yet), but just after he went on his Insult The World Tour to the UK, Israel and Poland. No “moderates” took solace in seeing Romney at work on that foreign tour – only the hardcore Right was delighted by Romney’s role-playing of the “ugly American”. Most Americans, quite reasonably, freaked out when they saw that.
Even before the Insult The World tour, Romney had massively bad numbers because people don’t trust his “corporate raider” mentality, but many could still seem to make a case for him being somehow above ideology. That was, pretty obviously, a case that seeing Romney on his foreign trip did quite a lot to undercut.
But if Romney wanted to put a “conservative face” on his defeat, the logical thing to do would be to allow Paul Ryan’s own wacky ideas to be the more visible. We may question John McCain’s judgment for choosing Sarah Palin, but most people still have a much higher opinion of McCain than they do of Palin, for pretty clear reasons.
Romney has impressed us with his full-blown case of The Stupids early, by contrast. We can see that quite a lot of what repels us about Romney is Romney. Paul Ryan, as repellant as he is, won’t be able to keep the American voter from putting that together.