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.