In the course of a useful rundown of the Obama campaign’s plans to tie Mitt Romney as closely as possible to Paul Ryan and his budget, replaying Bill Clinton’s 1996 general-election strategy, WaPo’s Greg Sargent makes a very interesting point:

[T]he GOP, and even presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, have ceded to Ryan a startling amount of influence over the party’s fiscal policies, worldview, ideology, priorities and direction — and the resultant vision could prove just as alienating to independents, moderates and women as Newt did.

If Gingrich himself was a useful foil in 1996, Ryan’s vision for the country’s future will play that role this time around. And yet, despite the economic radicalism of the Romney-Ryan vision, Republicans remain equally convinced Ryan is a plus for them. The fact that both sides are doubling down so hard on Ryan is yet another sign that this election represents perhaps the starkest clash of ideological visions we’ve seen in a presidential race in recent memory.

Yep. The tension between Gingrich and GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole in 1996 was palpable, and had been for a good while. Romney’s close embrace of Ryan is different, all right. It may ultimately be attributable to Mitt’s chronic need to validate himself with serious movement conservative types, or perhaps represents a desire to offload all those complex and controversial budget issues on someone else, leaving The Man Who Would Be POTUS free to play the visionary executive focused on the big picture.

Without question, though, Romney’s eagerness to be Ryan’s buddy makes the Obama campaign’s task easier. If the public relations battle over Ryan’s budget goes hard south for the GOP, which is at least an even bet, Mitt is making it a lot harder to walk away from it all as just another overreach by those crazy House Republicans.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.