Regardless of what people believe a Vice Presidential nominee really means to a ticket, it comes down to three things:
- Can they bring in a different demographic than the Presidential nominee?
- Will they handle the media and campaigning well enough to not cost any votes?
- Can they deliver a state?
For Mitt Romney, the selection of Paul Ryan as his VP running mate tells a lot about the strategy of the campaign. First, it was assumed that he would try to cover the first point and use Ryan’s stark budget and deficit perspectives to energize the conservative base of the Republican party that had not been convinced that Romney was much more than a moderate.
They believe that Ryan is a strong campaigner who will be able to present himself consistently well. In 2008, Sarah Palin had some shining moments but also fell under the pressure of media scrutiny at times when her knowledge was questioned.
Most importantly, they believe that Ryan can deliver Wisconsin, a state that went to President Obama in 2008.
By not selecting Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty, Ohio’s Rob Portman, or Florida’s Marco Rubio, the campaign hopes that it can get Florida and Ohio without the VP bump and they feel that Pawlenty would not have been able to deliver Minnesota. Romney will need Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, and a couple of other swing states to be able to win in November.
The reality of a Vice President is much the same as a backup quarterback. They don’t really do much unless the 1st stringer goes down. Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, and Al Gore were not able to do much in their terms as VP – in the case of the current and prior VP, they were often more of a spectacle and detriment to their President than a helpful participant in the governing process.
In truth, VPs do little more than campaign.
Will Ryan be enough to help Romney catch up? Prior to conventions there really is no validity to opinion polls; a good convention is often the launching point for a candidate. Ryan has the conservative credentials to appeal to the right, but he also has the extreme conservative values that the left loves to attack. He will be painted as someone who is unwilling to take from the rich and who would rather cut social services than take an extra dime out of Wall Street. Will the Romney campaign be able to deflect the criticism and take the unpopular but realistic perspective that fiscal conservatism is the only way out of the mess we’re in?
We’ll find out in a few weeks. Once the convention is over, the GOP’s chances will be relatively clear.