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Chris Graham: Breaking down the Paul Ryan VP pick

John McCain went with Sarah Palin as his game changer in 2008. Does Paul Ryan change the game for Mitt Romney in 2012?

Maybe, maybe not.

Romney, the presumptive Republican Party nominee, seems to be thinking that Ryan will help buttress the case that he has been making that the 2012 election cycle is about the economy. Ryan, 42, a seven-term Wisconsin congressman, is best-known for his blueprint GOP budget plan that cuts taxes on upper incomes while also cutting services, most notably Medicare, to try to achieve budget balance.

A balanced budget, Republicans have been saying throughout the Obama administration, is the key to getting the economy back into balance. Of course, Republicans of the early 1930s said the same thing at the start of the Great Depression, and we saw what happened then. That’s the argument that Democrats are likely to make, among many, as they try to spin the campaign narrative to be not about the economy, but about the vision for America’s future that the Ryan budget represents.

It will be hard for the Republican ticket to avoid the steely glares of seniors who are going to be told for the next three months that Republicans want to do away with Medicare and put the burden of their health-care costs on their backs. Barack Obama was already polling quite well in Florida – the most recent polling done there, by Quinnipiac, had the Democrat up six points over Romney (and over 50 percent overall) – and you can almost bank on the Obama-Biden team running ads early and often reminding the huge senior voting bloc in the Sunshine State about what Ryan has had to say about the Medicare sacred cow.

Also of note is that Ryan as a VP pick isn’t necessarily even going to bring his own home state into the fold. The most recent Quinnipiac polling in Wisconsin had Obama up six over Romney and over 50 percent overall, though a July poll by Public Policy Polling did suggest that Ryan could move the needle closer to the GOP side, narrowing the gap to a single percentage point. Similar polling done by PPP had been a disqualifier for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, with the data suggesting that McDonnell offered nothing in the way of coattails to Romney in the Old Dominion.

Even with the needle moving closer, Ryan will have some work to do to bring Wisconsin into the GOP fold in November. Whatever good is done there could be outdone by how his presence may hurt the ticket in the key swing state of Florida, and then we get to what may be the clincher, the utter failure of the Romney team to address what may be its biggest weakness, in the Bible Belt South.

Social conservatives weren’t able to coalesce in the primaries around a single candidate to knock off the business Republican Romney, but they sure made a lot of noise shifting from Michele Bachmann to Herman Cain and then later to Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. The Ryan pick throws a bone not to the social-conservative wing of the party that is suspect that Romney is one of them, but rather reaches out yet again to the business Republicans who had already won the day when Romney emerged at the end of the primary season as the presumptive nominee.

Not to suggest that social conservatives will protest being left off the ticket by switching allegiances to Obama, but just that wing of the party feeling less energized about November could be a significant factor in November. The margin for error for Romney is already slim considering how well Obama is running in the polls – up seven points nationally in the most recent CNN poll, and up nine in the most recent Fox News poll.

The Ryan selection could very well turn out to be the game-changer that Romney needed to reverse those trends on his way to an upset victory in the 2012 race. The safer bet is that at best Ryan gets the rub of having been on the national ticket, albeit in a losing effort, with an eye toward his own ascendance on the national stage for 2016 and beyond.

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Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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