August 14, 2012

Paul Ryan May Hurt Romney's Electoral Vote

After the American Century

Updates added the day after the election in this color.

A VP nominee must bring more than competence and an ideological profile to the ticket. He or she is also from somewhere, usually a place there the presidential candidate needs help. John Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson, who brought with him the considerable prize of the Texas electoral votes, as well as credibility in the rest of the South. 

When Romney chooses Ryan, he is embracing not just an ideology, but also reaching out to a region, in this case the upper middle west. Wisconsin voted for Obama last time, but is a swing state this time around. Ryan, the Republicans are calculating, ought to be able to bring Wisconsin into their voting column. Not only that, but Ryan looks and sounds familiar to voters in the crucial swing state of Ohio. Romney lost Wisconsin.

The choice of Ryan has some clear risks, however.

(1) He wants to privatize the social security pension system and medical care as much as possible. This might be attractive to some younger voters, but for those who are now retired or anywhere near retirement, it is anathema. They have paid into the current system, and they will not like the idea. In electoral terms, this will hurt Romney in the largest swing state, Florida, which has a disproportionate number of pensioners.  Romney lost Florida

(2) Ryan is militantly against abortion. Romney already had trouble attracting women voters, and partnered with Ryan he risks scaring many moderate women away.  This will hurt the Republicans most among urban and well-educated voters. Romney did not do well with educated voters.

(3) Ryan wants to cut back severely on federal employment. This will alienate those who are on the US payroll, notably in northern Virginia, a swing state that Romney really needs to win. Romney lost Virginia, and he did so in northern Virginia.

(4) Ryan and Romney together are Catholic and Mormon. This may not appeal to Bible-Belt protestants. Part of the Republican base is happy Ryan was chosen, but does this apply to the fundamentalists and the evangelicals? Romney and Ryan roughly split the Catholic vote with Obama and Biden.

(5) This ticket will not do well with Hispanic voters. The heated Republican debates about how hard to punish illegal immigrants had already taken their toll. I doubt Ryan will appeal much to this, the largest of American minority groups, because he voted to build the fence along the Mexican border and he is on record as being against amnesty for illegal immigrants. Since Hispanic voters can be found throughout the country, and not just in the Southwest, this could hurt Romney in many close races, Romney got less than 30% of the Hispanic vote.

On the whole, choosing Ryan was a bold, but perhaps dangerous choice. It polarizes the election, and provides a clear choice in ideological terms. Despite an enormous war chest of more than $1 billion, Romney certainly could lost the election. Romney lost.

But if Ryan can deliver Wisconsin and Ohio. . .
Romney both of these states. Ryan added nothing to the ticket in electoral terms.