Ryan Selection Shows Romney Camp Eyeing Midwest States For Win

Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate indicates the presumptive GOP nominee sees his path to victory running through the Midwest, political experts said Saturday.

And the selection of the House Budget Committee chairman also addresses two nagging concerns for the Romney campaign: the tepid support among influential conservatives and the need to shake up a presidential race that polls show favor President Obama.

But the main focus on Saturday was the electoral math.

Several Republican strategists heralded the move for making Romney's campaign more viable in Wisconsin, a moderate state that has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in every contest since Ronald Reagan's re-election.

"He has a blue collar background and shares basic midwestern values," says Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "The fact is, blue collar voters broke for Obama at a record level in 2008, and Romney is going to have to improve on those numbers — especially since I don't think the campaign sees a lot of room to expand in the Southwest — if he is going to win this election."

Nor is the next GOP vice presidential nominee's appeal limited solely to the Upper Midwest. Political watchers suggested that Ryan's libertarian streak and small government philosophies could boost Romney in New Hampshire, whose four electoral votes could possibly prove decisive in November.

"I'm willing to bet his emphasis on free enterprise and personal responsibility would endear him to the voters there," said O'Connell.

In fact, Ryan's selection was in many ways a tacit admission that the Romney campaign needed to shake up a race and figure out a way to draw new attention to the Republican ticket. Rather than choosing from the safe and mild-mannered options Romney reportedly preferred early in the process, the campaign went for a pick that would change the dynamics.

"The overall sense was that they were sliding in the polls, and while this pick comes with some risk, they thought a bold pick was necessary," said O'Connell. "They wanted to stop talking about tax returns and Bain Capital and find someone who was a little more electrifying."

A Pew Research survey released earlier this year showed the greatest opposition to Ryan's Medicare plan come from those age 50 and older, with 51 percent saying they opposed the proposal and just 29 percent favoring it. Furthermore, those more than 50 years old were the most likely to have "heard a lot" about Ryan's plan.

"The onus is really going to be on Paul Ryan to use his knowledge of complex financial matters and his ability to communicate them in a cogent way to explain his plan," said O'Connell. "Otherwise, Mitt Romney is going to have to try to win Florida on his own."

Read more from Justin Sink at The Hill

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published this page in In The News 2012-08-11 20:30:00 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy