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Will Paul Ryan Help Or Hurt The GOP Ticket?


And now, the Opinion Page. And Republicans and Democrats can agree on one thing about Mitt Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his running mate. His selection reshapes the race for president. That may be all they agree on. We'll read from our range of opinions in a few minutes, and we want to hear from Republicans today. Does Paul Ryan help or hurt the GOP ticket? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. The email address is And we start with NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. He's here with us in Studio 3A.

Ron, the conventional wisdom among many Republicans was expressed, I think, in this editorial that appeared in the Dallas Morning News. Let me read from that first. It says, if the wise men and women of Talking Headistan are to be believed, Mitt Romney pulled off the rare feat of uniting right- and left-leaning decided Americans around his running mate choice of U.S. Representative Paul Ryan. On this, the Republican and Democratic bases agree: Great pick for our side. Can't wait.

How the Ryan selection plays with undecided, generally independent voters in a handful of swing states - the Americans who will actually decide this presidential election - remains to be seen. This newspaper, while recognizing the usually overhyped nature of any running mate decision, favors the Ryan choice, if it leads to what we expect it should: an honest debate over the size and scope of federal government, the annual $1.5 trillion deficits, the accumulated $15 trillion debt and the role of entitlement reform in offering solutions. And they say they believe it's going to now move from being a nasty, negative, small bore campaign into a contest of ideas and visions. Ideas and visions, is that what we have ahead of us now?

RON ELVING, BYLINE: There's also the possibility that it will become a nasty, negative, large bore campaign, which perhaps is the same thing. We have had and we have oftentimes commented on a campaign that seems to have revolved around rather small attacks and small issues and a lot of pettiness and some ads that really stretch one's credulity. But now, we're certainly going to engage on at least one big issue, not necessarily national security and not necessarily some of the social issues, although that's also a possibility. It's clear we're going to engage on the competing budget visions of the Obama administration and Paul Ryan.

Now, I say Paul Ryan as opposed to the Romney-Ryan ticket because it's not entirely clear at this point just how much Mitt Romney is going to embrace the Ryan budget. He has certainly embraced the man Paul Ryan; very appealing, young man, 42 years old from Southeastern Wisconsin. He's going to have a lot of fans. He's going to turn a lot of people on. But it's not clear Mitt Romney wants to defend everything in the Paul Ryan budget vision - 180 degrees different from that of the Obama administration. So we'll see just how clear the clash really is.

NEARY: All right. Let me read this - some excerpts from this opinion column in the National Review by Jonah Goldberg. And he gives us a list of pros and cons. He's somebody who's a - he presents himself as a huge, huge Paul Ryan fan. He says, I'm delighted by the news that he will be Romney's running mate. But then he says, wait a second. There are some pros and cons here. So let me read, first of all, from the pros. The GOP base, particularly the tea parties, will now be even more enthusiastic because this gives them a much more solid reason to want Romney to win, as opposed to just wanting Obama to lose. He also says it shows that for all of the talk of Romney's timidity and cautiousness, he can make a bold decision when he needs to. And this helps Romney communicate that this is a new Republican Party. Also, Ryan reinforces the message, grounded in objective fact, that the Republicans have a plan for the future while the Democrats are simply about kicking the can.

But he says, wait a second. Don't get too excited because there are some cons. This isn't a referendum on Obama anymore. By choosing Ryan, Romney is presenting voters with a choice between - once again, we hear that word - two visions. This may take Romney out of his comfort zone. Also if Romney loses, expect a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking about how Romney should have stuck with a referendum-on-Obama strategy. And it may well be harder, not easier, for Romney to talk about the economy now when Dems and the press will eagerly turn this into Mediscare(ph).

So they are few of the pros and cons from a writer at the National Review.

ELVING: Yes. And he - of course, his words here are quite clear and quite understandable. This is exactly the philosophy that National Review has espoused for many years, back to the 1950s when it was founded. And certainly, what we read in the National Review in the late 1980s when Paul Ryan himself as a student at the University of Miami in Ohio - that's Miami, Ohio, as opposed to Florida - when he was a student there, he began reading the National Review when it was handed to him by William Hart, one of his professors. And at that time, he would have read very similar sentiments to the kinds of things we hear either from Jonah Goldberg today or other National Review writers or from Mr. Ryan himself.

NEARY: Yeah. Let's take a call now. We're going to go to Jordan, calling from Cincinnati, Ohio. Jordan, hi.

JORDAN: Yes. Greetings from the Queen City of the West, Cincinnati. I am a Tea Party activist, and I have been completely opposed to Mitt Romney. I was a Newt Gingrich supporter. I'm banged doors for him, I made calls for him here in Ohio. I called out to Iowa. I was not excited about Romney at all, but I think that entitlement reform is something that's so important. It's such a big part of our spending, and it's going to snowball so much over the next few years. And every prediction - we're talking about health care spending and Medicare spending and Social Security spending, these things are going to cripple the nation.

And Paul Ryan is one of the only voices who has been committed dealing with it that's why a lot of Tea Party activists around here is super excited that Paul's been added to the ticket. We know him. We trust him. And I think that Mitt Romney has just maybe awakened the Tea Party and got us moving. I was amazed the other day. I went to the Romney call center here in the area for the first time - at the Republican headquarters in my county - and I was amazed because all of a sudden, there were all this people there, and they were all talking about Ryan.

In my town, people are excited for the first time, and I think that we've made this maybe a real horse race now. So it's just a, you know, sort of a frivolous campaign. We're going to be talking about real ideas, and entitlement reform is on the table.

NEARY: All right, Jordan. Thanks so much for your call. Ron, obviously, we've got a Tea Party activist here telling us what - telling us that the Tea Party base is every excited about this. Is that a good thing or is that going to scare off some independent voters? They're going to feel like that now the Romney ticket is appealing to too-far right wing part of the Republican Party?

ELVING: It's probably both. This caller sums up the case for why it's important to get the Tea Party really excited. We've been told for months that it doesn't matter, in a sense, how excited the Tea Party is about their own candidate because they're so unalterably opposed, so vociferously opposed to President Obama that they're going to turn out and vote in record numbers and they can be relied upon. But now, we're being told that they're really enthusiastic and, perhaps, that is more believable, that they really more likely to turn out if there are some part of the ticket that they're really excited about. Now, much more will depend on how the campaign goes between now and November.

But I think that this raises the prospect that the Tea Party vote will be everything it was in 2010, and that may be enough in some places. But it should be noted that the 2010 turnout was nowhere near as large as the 2008 turnout. Off-year elections are nowhere near as large as presidential year elections. Now we have that larger turnout in a presidential year, and the Tea Party presence, even if it equals what it was in 2010, cannot have quite the same effect in a larger turnout. So if, as you suggested, the Ryan pick not only energizes one side, but also energizes the other in opposition to Paul Ryan's idea and specifically those that appeal to the Tea Party, then we could see some countervailing effect that could be good for the Democrats.

NEARY: All right. Let's go to Bob, calling from Tampa, Florida. Hi, Bob.

BOB: Hi. How are you?

NEARY: Good. Go ahead.

BOB: Hi. Well, yes, I'm a 22-year-old voter. This is only going to be my second presidential election. I'm a moderate Republican. I voted for John McCain in 2008. And I'm really excited for the Ryan pick because it bridges those that - it bridges that - it bridges the further right-wing Republicans with the moderates. It's making the entire party enthusiastic, in my opinion. (Unintelligible) you know, this may not be as enthusiastic as Obama was in 2008. The fact that we have both the further right wing with the moderates excited, that's a pretty important factor that I don't think should be overlooked.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for you call, Bob. And, Ron, uniting the party.

ELVING: Some question as to whether or not the kind of Republican moderates who were pleased and relieved to see Mitt Romney be the nominee rather than, say, Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum, will be as pleased with the prospect of Paul Ryan being, if you will, the philosophical heart of this ticket. If he becomes the spirit, if you will, if he becomes the promise of what their administration would be like, that could conceivably make some moderate Republicans a little bit nervous.

But I suspect that given four years of a Democratic administration and the great desire of Republicans to control, for example, the Supreme Court, that even moderate Republicans will probably swallow whatever they need to swallow and turn out for the Republican ticket in November. This is a Republican Party uniting this vice presidential pick more than anything else.

NEARY: Now, talking about conventional wisdom, so far the conventional wisdom is that most Democrats are pretty happy about this because they think that they can organize around opposition to Ryan and the Ryan budget.

Rick Jasculca in The Chicago Tribune says, wait a second, Dems. Beware, Ryan is offering some solutions. He says, with all of the bizarre twists and turns of the campaign, it's sometimes difficult to remember that the state of the U.S. economy remains the number one issue for voters. Likewise, the staggering budget deficit continues to be a significant and substantive piece of the economic puzzle.

And he goes on to say, just because I and other Democrats think the Ryan plan is flawed - I'm always concerned with solutions based strictly on numbers rather than also factoring in human consequences, intended or not - the reality is that Romney now has a running mate who actually proposed a specific and comprehensive solution to one of our most sweeping national problems. And he is an attractive candidate.

So how comfortable should the Democrats really be if they're getting comfortable over this choice of a VP?

ELVING: Comfortable would not be the best word to describe what they ought to be, perhaps energized, perhaps, in some sense, reassured that this campaign is now going to be joined on a higher plain. It's going to be joined on a war of ideas that the Democrats should at least feel that they're equipped to fight. But not comfortable because comfortable would suggest a certain amount of complacency that somehow Paul Ryan is going to be himself. That is not the case. He's going to reach out to a lot of voters who may not be particularly ideological, who may not be familiar with all the ins and outs of his plan, who may not know much about what goes on in Washington. He's going to look pretty good. He's going to sound pretty good. He's going to be enormously earnest and sincere.

And I suspect that like Ronald Reagan in 1980, who started out the campaign looking too ideologically unacceptable, he might very well become so charming between now and November that people who would not like his ideas in the abstract are attracted to them in the persona of the messenger, in this case Paul Ryan.

NEARY: All right. And I just want to remind our listeners that you are listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And we're going to Hugh(ph). He's calling from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Hi. Hi. Hello, Hugh?

HUGH: Hello.

NEARY: Hi. Go ahead.

HUGH: My name is Hugh. I view myself as a conservative Republican. And I have a specific problem with the Ryan-Romney ticket, and that is I've heard absolutely nothing about their - either their foreign policy credentials or their policies. I have no idea where Mr. Ryan stands on that issue. I do not think Mr. Ryan will do himself well in his first trip overseas. And I have always the attitude that you vote for the presidency based on what you think they might do in foreign policy because they have the power of (unintelligible) and start stop wars. And domestic politics, although is important, fundamentally takes care of itself. So I always look for the presidency based on my attitude of where they will be as foreign policy leaders, and I'm terribly concerned that nobody is even addressing that issue.

NEARY: Yeah, that does seem to be the case, Ron.

ELVING: Hugh raises an important point here that has been very much in the backseat of this campaign up until now, but may be brought into the forefront simply because Paul Ryan has not had any kind of foreign policy experience or shown a great deal of interest in the national security field. He's been focused very intensely on domestic issues, especially fiscal ones, and not on foreign policy.

The same can really be said of Mitt Romney in general. He was a governor. That's his background. He's been a business. That's his background. And we do know something about Mitt Romney's positions on some of these issues, and it's not going to be hard to divine Paul Ryan's positions on foreign policy as we go forward. But for the moment, clearly, this is a ticket that de-emphasizes Hugh's concerns.

And I remember being told by a number of similarly conservative Republicans that they were disturbed in 2008 not by John McCain, whom they knew and whom they trusted on national security and foreign policy, but by the addition of Sarah Palin with her lack of that kind of experience.

NEARY: All right. Let's go to Betsy(ph). Hi, Betsy. Betsy is calling...


NEARY: ...from Utah.

BETSY: Yes. I'm calling because that a lot of the minority reports about women aren't happy with Romney, and we're disenfranchised but - I think adding Ryan is just serious(ph). I want my children to have a future and I don't - I have really loved Obama. I'm a registered Republican and I would never criticize him, but I am concerned about my children's future and the debt, and I hate debt. And my family, we worked really hard to get out of debt (unintelligible). And I just - anyway, so I think that this is good for women who care about their family.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for that perspective. And I just wanted to read quickly from Zerlina Maxwell her - from BB&T Wealth. She writes that we need to start talking about his extreme views on women's rights. This is Ryan's views on women's rights and social issues. He may come off as harmless and smiling but primarily concerned with the nation's debt, but he has voted for some of the most extreme positions on issues near and dear to many female voters.

And another group I want to get in and that the effect on the poor and minorities. Here is an opinion which says, he was picked in large part not to balance the Romney ticket, but because of his budget-hammering big stick. This would be the worst possible time for the poor and minorities. The poor are not only getting poorer, they are also more numerous than at any time in the last half a century.

And, you know, talking about minorities, I wondered, has the Republican Party decided, number one, we're not going to get the African vote so we don't - African-American votes, so we don't have to, you know, bother trying. And number two, we're probably never going to get the Latin vote either, so we don't have to go after them.

ELVING: I don't think so. I think the Republican Party would still like to get as many African-American votes and Hispanic votes as they possibly could. But to your point, they have consigned themselves to thinking that those numbers are probably not going to be great. And their emphasis has been to push up their numbers among Anglo voters and particularly among Anglo male voters and particularly blue-collar Anglo-American voters - male voters rather. And this is probably visible in the choice of Paul Ryan over somebody like, say, Marco Rubio or Susana Martinez, other people they could have put on the ticket to increase their appeal to Hispanics.

But the party would say - and I'm sure Paul Ryan would say - that by dealing with the federal budget problem and by trying to create more jobs through their policies, they would be helping African-Americans and Hispanics who have been suffering in the last several years.

NEARY: Ron Elving, thanks so much for being here today. That was NPR senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. Thanks to everyone who called and wrote. I'm sorry we didn't have time to get to all of you. And tomorrow, we'll talk about the results of a new survey on aging in America. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.