Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Long and Winding the White House (part 2)

Welcome to part 2 of The Long and Winding the White House. You can read part one here.

The U.S. Presidential campaign is about to enter an important phase. With only three full weeks to go, the race has tightened considerably. This week will feature the second Presidential debate - a debate many see as critical to President Obama's chances of recapturing the momentum.

While we will be watching, tweeting and writing about the debate here at A Guy Watching Politics (@PoliticWatcher on Twitter), we would be remiss to view this week, or the remaining ones solely through the lens of the debates. As always there is a lot going on.

One aspect of the race that I want to talk about focuses on the role of the running mates. Last week we had the Biden-Ryan debate; a debate which arguably did more than the first Obama-Romney did to lay out the actual choice Americans are being asked to make.

Moving out of that debate and back onto the hustings, the role of the running mate will start to become more important. This is particularly the case for Paul Ryan.


The Romney campaign is essentially one, long tight-rope walk. It is a walk that needs to be simultaneously mindful of the base it needs to energize and the moderate, swing voters it needs to get onside.  As such, the potential for missteps is great, as evidenced here.

Cue Paul Ryan.

Over the coming weeks his job is to keep the base engaged. He is there to remind them what a danger Obama poses to their views of government and society; to show that the Romney-Ryan ticket is one that is sensitive to the more socially-conservative values that the Republican / Tea Party base considers their own.

Doing so allows Mr. Romney to focus on the real prize - the moderates and those who consider themselves to be neither Republican or Democrat. This is a slice of the electorate which more closely resembles the voters that elected him Governor of Massachusetts.

Mr. Romney simply cannot get these voters onside if he embraces a more right-wing or Tea Party tone. But given the closeness of the race he cannot afford to alienate either them or the Republican base. Mr. Ryan offers him the ability to speak to both simultaneously. It's like political tag-team wrestling.

Over the remaining three weeks, I suspect we will see more of the moderate Mitt Romney, while his running mate rouses the base. Yes there are risks, not the least of which is the potential for unscripted or particularly partisan rhetoric by Mr. Ryan that can become a story and detract from the Romney message.  

But overall these are risks worth taking. Between Ryan and the Super PACs, Mr. Romney has the chance to effectively campaign on multiple fronts - with multiple messages - at the same time. If this is done successfully, it could prove decisive.

All to say, there is a lot to look at between now and November 6th...

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