SYNDICATED COLUMN: Finding Privatizer Ryan

If Romney Loses, Blame His Running Mate

      Unless something surprising and dramatic happens, Obama will win the election. Earlier this week the Associated Press released an analysis of public and private polls that put “within reach of the 270 electoral votes needed to win a second term.” Obama is running ahead in many major swing states, including Ohio—a necessity for a GOP candidate to win. Yeah, yeah, this week’s presidential debates could make a difference—but they rarely do.

What went wrong with the Romney campaign? (Insert the usual fat-lady-not-over-blah-blah-anything-could-happen disclaimer here.)

All things being equal, this should have been a cakewalk for Romney—or any half-decent Republican. The economy is still awful. The official unemployment rate is over 8%, a magic number that historically kills reelection campaigns. Since Obama hasn’t promised any big jobs programs, neither Hope nor Change is on offer. And Romney has/had a sales pitch tailored for hard times: he turned around companies; his business experience will/would help him turn around the U.S. economy.

This election is/was Romney’s to lose—and apparently he has. The cause can be summed up in two words: Paul Ryan.

Sure, there were plenty of other missteps. His bizarre “47%” remark turned out to be a game changer that alienated swing voters. Like the (unfair) story about how George H.W. Bush was so out of touch that he’d never seen a supermarket price scanner (no wonder that preppy pipsqueak didn’t care about Americans who’d lost jobs under the 1987-1992 recession), Romney’s 47% slag fit neatly with our overall impression that Romney is a heartless automaton of a CEO who doesn’t feel our pain. Worse, he’s a man with something to hide; his refusal to release his taxes proves it.

Though greeted by Very Serious pundits as a canny combination of intellectual heft and Tea Party cred, the selection of running mate Paul Ryan has been a bigger disaster than Sarah Palin in 2008. (To be fair to John Cain, Palin was a Hail Mary pass by a campaign that was way behind.) As Paul Krugman pointed out in the New York Times, the selection is beginning to shape up as a “referendum” on the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, on Social Security, Medicare and, yes, Obamacare, which represents an extension of that legacy.”

Which is Ryan’s fault.

Before the veep announcement, the campaign was a referendum on Obama’s stewardship over the economy. Which was good for Romney. Since August it has been about Paul Ryan, known for his plan to trash reform entitlement programs. Misfire! The one time you don’t attack the safety net is when people are feeling squeezed and pessimistic about the future.

Sensing resistance, Republicans walked back Ryan’s extreme agenda using the classic “divide and conquer” approach, guaranteeing that people over 55 would keep their Medicare and Social Security. No sale. Romney-Ryan forgot something: senior citizens have children and grandchildren.  Older Americans want younger people to enjoy the same benefits they’re getting now. Many senior citizens no doubt see the slippery slope of austerity: taking away Social Security for people under 55 next leads to going after those over 55. Finally, with the U.S. Treasury squandering trillions of dollars on wars, it’s hard to argue that the sick and old ought to resort to Dumpster-diving.

The Romney–Ryan campaign understood that voters were pissed at Obama. But they didn’t understand why.

There were two types of anger against Obama. Mostly prompted by Obamacare, right-wingers hate the president for growing an intrusive federal government. But there is also liberal resentment—shared by many moderates—at Obama’s refusal to help the jobless and foreclosure victims. Lefties also dislike Obamacare—but because, minus a public option, it’s a sellout to the insurance conglomerates. Romney could have seduced these voters with his own plans to help the sick and poor. Instead, he went with Ryan—who would destroy programs that are already too weak—and frightened disgruntled Democrats back into Obama’s camp.

Romney ignored the time-tested tactic of moving to the center after winning your party’s nomination. Romney repackaged himself as a right-winger to win the GOP nomination. In the general election, he needed to appeal to Democrats and swing voters. Choosing Paul Ryan sent the opposite signal.

This is not to say that President Obama will have an easy second term. Unlike 2008, when the vast majority of Americans felt satisfied that they had made the right choice, Obama is only likeable enough (the words he used to describe Hillary Clinton) compared to Romney. The only reason Obama seems headed to victory this November is that he was lucky enough to run against one of the most staggeringly inept campaigns in memory, headed by an unbelievably tone-deaf plutocrat.

(Ted Rall‘s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is This column originally appeared at’s Lean Forward blog.)


5 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Finding Privatizer Ryan

  1. I keep wondering what will happen if Romney points out that the real unemployment rate is at double digits, that the jobs “created” are far inferior to the ones they replaced, and then releases his tax returns — right at the beginning of the debate — for all to see that there’s nothing to hide.

    Sure, it would be Hail Mary as well, but I’m simply too suspicious of the fringe-arm of the Republican Party to believe that they don’t have something god-awful devastating up their sleeves. It’s simply too hard to believe that they’re flubbing this so badly, ESPECIALLY after John McCain.

    (Don’t worry, Whimsical. I’ve got the $25 set aside in either case.)

  2. The ‘are you better off than four years ago’ question:

    About 15% of those who were employed in ’06 are now unemployed. Of course, unemployment in ’06 was around 5%, so now there are about 20% of the workforce who would like to be working but aren’t.

    But basically, in late ’08 and early ’09, after the housing bubble burst, about half a million Americans were losing their jobs every month, and much of the workforce was worried sick. Now, America is not losing jobs, so the Americans who kept their jobs are not worried about losing them, and so most Americans are better off than four years ago.

    ‘Unemployment’ is a very technical term, one whose meaning hasn’t changed since ’47. To be ‘unemployed’ one must not have had any work at all for the month, not even one hour, and one must have applied to valid potential employers. More than half of those out of work are not technically unemployed, but if one is going to count all those who lost their jobs, that would mean that the percentage out of work during the Great Depression was far more than the reported 25%.

    The Obamabots say Obama has done as much as he could under the circumstances. The Texas Bandido El Bee Jay managed to get stuff done, disirregardless. So the Obamabots are wrong.

    I see the Obamabots’ ‘Now everyone has access to the best healthcare in the world’ as being (as Mr Rall says) ‘Now the insurance executives have a massive captive customer base and can charge more for fewer services.’ Which isn’t fair to Obamacare. The devil is in how it is administered, and we have no idea how it will be administered, and won’t have until 2016. Maybe excellent service for all Americans who earn enough to pay for the Obamacare insurance (and prison doctors for those who can’t). Maybe almost everything will remain uncovered under individual policies, but those forced to buy them must pay $1,000 a month for healthcare worth $500 a year.

    Obamacare says the insurance companies must spend 80% of premiums on actual healthcare for the insured, so that isn’t supposed to happen, and, as planned, in 2012, those covered by Obamacare got big refunds from their insurance companies. But that is unlikely to repeat ever again after the 2012 election. And ‘creative accounting’ is what insurance companies do.

    And I object to killing people without US-style open trials, but I posted that as an e-comment on the New York Times comment site, and was almost universally reviled. Under US law, all those killed under orders of the US president are enemy terrorists. And the New York Times and almost all its readers agree with that law. So, they wrote, the president knows, and the proof is classified, so every patriotic American must accept that everyone killed by the US was an enemy terrorist. And that ‘enhanced interrogation’ is NEVER torture.

    The Bush, Jr supporters say that it was Bush, Jr’s enhanced interrogation that led to the death of Osama, and that ‘enhanced interrogation was NOT torture. The Obamabots say what Bush, Jr did WAS torture, but what Obama is doing (i.e., the exact same thing) is NOT torture, and it led to the killing of Osama. Obama said that Osama was living in a multimillion dollar mansion, and that he and his supporters were killed in a firefight. The anti-American Pakis noted that Osama’s ramshackle compound was worth less than one of Mitt’s wife’s Caddys, and the four dead left behind by the US Marines had been shot at point-blank range in what must have been an execution. Obama assured us that Osama spent his days watching porn and developing an attack that was within days of being executed, an attack that would have overshadowed 9/11 in the history books had it not been stopped by President Obama ‘just in the nick of time’. No proof, of course, no evidence. And none needed by most Americans.

    And in the New York Times: ‘You are an unAmerican traitor to question any Democratic president. He knows who are the enemies of the US, and everyone he’s killed has been such an enemy. How can you, with no access to his information, question the US president???’

    Meanwhile, Fox News gives the ability to correctly identify America’s enemies only to Republican Presidents, and are inclined to say that Republicans killed Osama, not Obama.

    As messes go, this one would fill a field.

  3. As I mentioned before, Paul Ryan was a HORRIBLE pick for Romney, and, although I didn’t post it here, I believed Obama would win after that choice. I’m actually shocked by how right I was. Ryan’s personal selfishness, like Palin’s, makes it _impossible_ for him to be a good soldier and back Romney up. Romney picked a friend instead of an ally, and Romney will lose for it. Better than he deserves.

    That said, this pathetic strategy supports the thesis I promulgated earlier: politicians are, first and foremost, courtiers to the aristocracy and political players second, so electoral skill is not a prerequisite to entering the class. Nearly any poster on this site could have beaten Obama from the Republican side, not because any of us are necessarily skilled or virtuous, but merely because your average human being can take his or her head out of his or her own ass upon occasion. Romney and Ryan want to be themselves more than they want to win; Obama wants to win more than he wants to be himself. Thus, Obama will both lie AND tell the truth better than Romney, and the Romney-Ryan ticket will circle-jerk themselves into a abysmal loss.

    All Romney had to do was lie appropriately and IGNORE Republicans — but he couldn’t do that. He is absorbed with impressing the Republican base. He knows they don’t like him. If he were a stronger person, he’d say “fuck ’em” and scare them with the black-man-in-office to bring them in line. Instead, he pines like the fourth-in-line in a bully’s entourage, hoping to make it to bully’s lieutenant one day. That’s why he picked a fellow-traveller, Ryan, instead of the hypothetical-latino-moderate-republican he _should_ have picked.

    Only mass voter fraud can save him now.

    *Looks at recent legislation.*

    Hm. I may have to rethink my prediction.

  4. When Romney and Ryan are up on the podium in front of rank and file Republicans, I wonder if they are thinking: “These people are so stupid they can’t even see we are going to screw them over completely.” Just trying to explain the forced, pained smile on Ryan’s face.