Friday, 17 August 2012

Mitt's runnning mate

As Mitt Romney’s shaky one-man road-show reeled in some reinforcement from Paul Ryan, Rupert Murdoch described the Republican presidential candidate’s choice of running mate as “almost perfect”, and the Democrats may gleefully agree.

Mr Ryan was presented in faintly farcical manner, billed as the “next President” by his bumbling boss, who then interrupted his speech to correct the cock-up, inadvertently painting it as a possibly more palatable option. When unhindered however, Ryan revealed the easy, affable intelligence apparently absent from his campaign colleague. Whether or not you can digest the doctrine, it is hard to knock Ryan’s delivery.

Regarded as the furthest to the right of Romney’s options, Paul Ryan, at 42, has already represented his home state of Wisconsin in Congress for seven terms. As chairman of the committee overseeing the federal budget, he has also authored an alternative to Barack Obama’s budget. His “Path to Prosperity” reads like chapters chopped from the conservative bible. The plan proposes slashing the soaring US debt more dramatically than the present administration would dare, radically reducing government spending, whilst cutting tax for top earners. A familiar story to that told on this side of the pond of course, but one yet to produce a happy ending.

The Republican guard will no doubt relish Paul Ryan’s robust plans, his insightful intellect and his considerable contrast to the gaffe-prone Governor Romney, and yet his selection of side-kick is not without its risks. Democrats will dine out on the perception that the “Path to Prosperity” may not perhaps be wide enough for everyone. Ryan’s mooted reform of Medicare, for example, has caused concern for the over 65s. Acting as a guarantee of medical services for ageing Americans, it’s the nearest they get to an NHS, and meddling with that may not sit well with the elderly of the electorate. In addition, despite being a fully paid-up member of the stimulus-sceptic society, Ryan has been forced to admit that he went cap in hand for the very funding he refused to support, having twice denied he did.

But these are just the early skirmishes, and with the cast now complete, the circus starts in earnest. President Obama, as incumbent in uncertain times, has a hard sell on his hands, and with Ryan in his corner, Romney now packs a more powerful punch in the policy department. Donations to the Republican campaign have reportedly rocketed in response to Ryan’s recruitment, so with both sides rolling up their sleeves, the fight is unlikely to be clean, and it certainly won’t be cheap.  

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