US Democrats Cheered by Romney’s Ryan Pick
Chicago. Mitt Romney’s surprise pick of youthful ideologue Paul Ryan as his Republican running mate delighted conservatives — but it may have excited President Barack Obama’s Democrats even more.
The president has anchored his re-election campaign on a conceit that the wealthy Romney would shower the rich with tax cuts, and saddle the middle class with the bill, in the form of higher taxes and cuts to key social programs.
Obama aides say that Ryan, an incubator of intellectual conservatism who the president has already demagogued as the epitome of “social Darwinism,” fits that attack line perfectly, thanks to his deficit-cutting budget proposal.
Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, defined Ryan as an “architect” of radical Republican budget policies and a $250,000 tax cut for millionaires.
“Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy,” he said.
Democrats say Ryan’s budget, which passed in the House of Representatives but was blocked in the Senate, would end the cherished Medicare state health care system for seniors and cast the elderly loose in the jungle of private insurance.
The naming of Ryan and a certain row over Medicare will give Obama new hope of hanging on to the biggest swing state — Florida — where the votes of retirees are hugely important.
Democratic attacks on Ryan were already in full swing hours after Romney announced his pick, in the battleground state of Virginia.
“The priorities of Governor Romney and Chairman Ryan are clear. At every turn they have opted to protect the wealthiest at the expense of the middle class,” said Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House.
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said Romney has “doubled down on his commitment to gut Social Security and end Medicare as we know it.”
Obama made no public comment on Ryan’s selection, ignoring shouted questions as he climbed aboard his helicopter at the White House.
He later huddled with top aides at campaign headquarters in his hometown of Chicago, where he will hold five fund-raisers on Sunday before launching a three-day bus tour of swing state Iowa on Monday.
Democratic leaning think tanks meanwhile zeroed in on another area of possible vulnerability for the Republican ticket, the fact that Romney and Ryan have little foreign policy experience.
Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the progressive National Security Network, warned that Ryan’s fiscal hawkishness had cut funding for the military, diplomats and veterans.
“Mitt Romney’s choice today to name Paul Ryan as commander-in-chief-in-waiting is at best cynical, at worst reckless,” she said. “Ryan has proven himself to be less a courageous budget maverick and more a creature of politics — pitting himself against America’s military, diplomats and veterans.”
Obama has long seen Ryan as a profitable political target.
In April 2011, the president delivered a speech billed as outlining his plan to cut the deficit.
Instead, he demolished Ryan’s budget plan in a ruthless power play that embarrassed the Wisconsin congressman, sitting in the audience.
This year, laying the philosophical groundwork for his re-election bid, Obama unveiled another savage critique of the Ryan budget.
“It is a Trojan horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country,” Obama said.
“It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.”
The Republican vice presidential drama will pose new challenges for Obama’s campaign.
Romney’s effort has been panned by analysts as lackluster, vacuous and led by a candidate devoid of a political North Star who has flip-flopped from moderate positions to appeal to the hard right Republican base.
Now, at least, his campaign has intellectual heft, with some prospect that his selection could lift a race that both sides have dragged into the gutter with ferociously negative advertising.
The selection sets up a substantive contrast between the Romney-Ryan ticket, which vows to cut state spending and dole out new tax cuts, and Obama’s vision of an activist government that can ease the struggles of the middle class.
Romney is hoping the Republican vice presidential pick will slow the momentum that the Obama camp had enjoyed in recent days: Several national polls showed the president up by seven to nine points.
And Obama will also have to contend with a newly energized conservative political base, which has been slow to warm to Romney.
Ryan hails from the industrial Midwest, and with his working class, Catholic background, may appeal to swing voters Obama finds it toughest to reach.
Vice President Joe Biden, who has similar roots and pedigree, will be deployed to counter the Ryan offensive.