The GOP Pros Agree: Ryan a Bad Idea

I noted yesterday that leaks from within Team Mitt expressing bafflement about his decision to make Paul Ryan his running-mate probably reflected a combination of spin (“you know Mitt, he’s such a spontaneous, independent cuss”) and CYA. But there’s a substantial Burns/Haberman/Martin piece up at Politico today that looks beyond what the Romney campaign is putting out and suggests a strong consensus of GOP political pros don’t like this move at all:

In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.

In this article, and elsewhere in the conservative chattering classes, there’s a lot of unfocused talk about the clarity Ryan brings to the GOP message, and the excitement he inspires among conservative activists. That’s all entirely true, but perhaps a bit besides the point, as one GOP op told the Politico reporters:

Another strategist emailed midway through Romney and Ryan’s first joint event Saturday: “The good news is that this ticket now has a vision. The bad news is that vision is basically just a chart of numbers used to justify policies that are extremely unpopular.”

We’re already hearing a lot from Republicans about Romney’s “courage” in choosing Ryan and the “tough choices” the ticket is willing to ask the American people to make. In Washington-speak, “courage” often means “folly,” and “tough choices” means advocating something voters don’t like. There is no inherent virtue in that; plenty of unpopular policy proposals are also stupid and evil, and in fact lots of them are contained in the Ryan Budget. But it’s worth remembering the code when you hear GOP insider talk about the ticket going forward.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.