…and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’ve argued for some time that some of Romney’s core personality traits are his slow, deliberate, methodical, risk-averse pragmatism. His speech was basically that. Here are some quick, scattered reactions presented in no particular order:
- Romney spent the bulk of his acceptance speech making “shout-outs” to three specific groups: women, immigrants, and disaffected 2008 Obama voters. Not a bad strategy given that Romney is currently at a 40% polling disadvantage among Latinos and 10% disadvantage among women. Unfortunately for Romney, I don’t think that either of those groups will budge much in the next two months so long as Romney continues to support policies like “self-deportation”… and it remains to be seen how many disaffected Obama voters are disaffected enough to vote for a Republican (my educated guess: not many).
- There were three whole sentences on social issues toward the end. That pretty much mirrors what he wrote in his No Apology campaign book. Social conservatives beware: I don’t think Romney will be a culture warrior president.
- About the “personalizing” of the candidate effect: more details of Romney’s religion were covered earlier in the evening, but two hours before his address. Those who don’t know Mitt already weren’t watching C-SPAN at that point, so I’m curious to see if the Romney campaign will be promoting those Mormon speakers later in the campaign.
- On Clint Eastwood.
- “And let me make this very clear – unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class.” Sigh… Some independent analysis have concluded that Romney’s plan would do that very thing (raise taxes on middle class). And even though he didn’t have as many whoppers as his running mate the night before, there were many subtle inaccuracies. See here, here, and here for starters.
- Overall, I thought the speech was cautious, deliberate, and risk-averse. Just like Romney.
Here’s an un-organized smattering of reactions to Paul Ryan’s VP nominee acceptance speech in Tampa last night:
- In the modern campaign era, the job of the VP candidate is essentially to be the “attack dog” toward the opposing ticket. Ryan showed that he’s ready and willing to take up that task. He didn’t spare much criticism in his acceptance speech, focusing far more on the unsuitability of their opponents than his/Romney’s own credentials.
- I didn’t see much in the speech that was directed toward “moderates” or “Independents.” It was a “red meat” speech designed to hit ideological conservatives in their gut and get them fired up and excited. Given that Romney’s best shot at the presidency is, in my view, to turn out the ideological base rather than convert the mushy middle, the speech was generally effective toward that end.
- This speech gives us a preview of what we here at Centre College might expect from the vice presidential debate against Joe Biden. I’m expecting to see from both candidates an enunciation of starkly different visions for the country and the proper role of government in the lives of its citizens, rather than a two-way engagement and/or a recognition that the political world is not so “black and white” as its often portrayed in campaign seasons.
- From a personal perspective, I sympathize very much with Ryan’s story about his mother having to go back to school and work to support her family after his father passed away when he was in high school. Regardless of your political affiliation, that’s heroic and it was very decent of Ryan, in my view, to recognize his mother in that way.
- Finally, I’ll leave it to others to discuss the extent to which Congressman Ryan’s many assertions have basis in objective reality: see here, here, here, and here for starters.
We’ll see how Romney’s speech goes tonight!
A few weeks ago David Brooks opined that this is the “dullest [presidential] campaign ever.” As he puts it: “It’s incredibly consequential and incredibly boring all at the same time.” He lists ten reasons for this, including the following:
Has there ever been a campaign with so few major plans on the table? President Obama’s proposals are small and medium-size retreads, while Mitt Romney has run the closest thing to a policy-free race as any candidate in my lifetime. Republicans spend their days fleshing out proposals, which Romney decides not to champion.
The whole article is worth a read. What do you all think? Is this the “dullest campaign ever”?
To me, the most potentially “exciting” part of this campaign has been the exceptional nature of the religious affiliation of the four major party candidates. For the first time in history, we don’t have a single Anglo-Saxon Protestant on either ticket. And yet this has become a much smaller part of the campaign narrative than I was originally anticipating. Perhaps this will change after the conventions… but I doubt it.
James Fallows recently published an excellent article over at The Atlantic on the upcoming Obama-Romney presidential debates. The bulk of the article focuses on Romney and his previous debate experiences, then finishes off with a list of factors going both for and against Obama in terms of their respective debate performances.
From the article:
If economic trends are bad enough—or, improbably, good enough—to turn the election into a runaway, we might look back and say that the debates didn’t matter. But in what gives every sign of being a close, bitter, expensive, and mostly negative contest, the way these men interact onstage could make a major difference.
Full post available here:
The Republican National Convention is quickly approaching (next week) and the Democratic National Convention the week after. A good overview of common misconceptions about national political conventions:
Huff Post Live recently hosted an online forum on “Debating the Debates,” of which yours truly was invited to participate:
Here are my initial reactions, in no particular order:
- The Ryan pick doesn’t affect the electoral math very much because Wisconsin is not much of a swing state in presidential elections anymore. Most polls show Obama leading in Wisconsin by anywhere from 5-10%. Political science research has shown that VP picks can get a 1-2% bump in their home state, at most, and that’s not enough to put Wisconsin back into play unless national conditions change significantly.
- If Romney were making his pick purely based on electoral math, Rob Portman (Ohio) and Marco Rubio (Florida) would have been the better picks. Both of those states are within the 1-2% margin where a VP pick from their states might have tipped the scales toward Romney.
- Since Romney obviously didn’t make the choice based purely on electoral math, it suggests that he wagered there were more advantages elsewhere for making a Ryan VP pick. Ryan is very popular with the conservative ideological base of the Republican party because of his now-famous budget proposals which include substantial cuts for domestic spending and complete overhauls of entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid. This plan is popular with Tea Party conservatives but very unpopular with moderates. With this pick, Romney is indicating that he believes victory is more likely by motivating his conservative base rather than trying to persuade the middle. This is smart. Surveys indicate that most voters have already made up their mind. There really aren’t that many Independent, undecided, “swing” voters out there at this point. Romney’s best shot at winning is to get those already inclined to vote for him, conservatives and Republicans, excited to turn out and vote this November… something that he’s struggled with through this entire presidential campaign. Paul Ryan will help motivate and turn out the base in November.
- With this pick, Romney has decided to link himself to Paul Ryan’s budget proposals. This makes the contrast of economic visions between Romney and Obama even starker, and it clearly focuses the election on economic, rather than social, issues. Romney has decided to give voters an even clearer choice between two fundamentally different visions of the proper role of government in society.
- Ezra Klein at Washington Post says that Paul Ryan is “very quick on his feet, and he’s got a lot of experience explaining his plans to skeptical audiences.” This should make for a lively, energetic debate between him and Joe Biden here at Centre College in Danville this October.
- I’d have to double-check this, but I think that this is the first time that a major-party ticket has not had at least one Protestant. Romney and Ryan are Mormon and Catholic, respectively. This is a big step for religious diversity in the U.S., and it would be an even bigger step if we were to elect two individuals of historically minority and persecuted religious traditions as President and Vice President.
One of my friends from high school and college was in town this week. She has worked for the last several years as an IT specialist on Capitol Hill. I asked her what sorts of skills Capitol Hill employers look for when interviewing and considering potential employees straight out of college. She said that these are the priorities:
- Candidates must be able to write clearly and articulately. This cannot be emphasized enough: they have to be able to write well, especially under time deadlines.
- Candidates must also have good social and emotional skills. They need to be able to get along well in a team and not get flustered in stressful situations.
- Candidates must be able to supervise themselves and independently complete tasks.
- Candidates must also be dependable enough to show up for work every day, on time, and sober. Furthermore, they should be humble enough to simply “do what they’re told” when they’re in an entry-level job and not be belligerent or defiant to superiors in public.
All in all, this list was very pleasing to me. From what I can tell, Centre College graduates have ample opportunities to develop each and every one of these skills as part of their college experience, especially those in the Government program with future Washington, D.C. job aspirations.
My student Matthew Gidcomb had an article published in the Huffington Post today on the research project he’s been working on this summer. Congratulations Matthew! The full text is available here:
Try your hand at predicting the outcome of this year’s election based on Obama’s approval rating and 2012 economic growth:
According to this forecasting model, given Obama’s current favorability rating of 48%, he’ll likely win reelection (albeit in a squeaker) even if the economy shows zero growth this year. The economy has to start shrinking in order for Romney’s chances to become competitive.