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Paul Ryan added to Republican ticket

John Cameron | Friday, August 24, 2012

After much speculation, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney selected Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., to join his bid for the White House as his running mate. Differing opinions are emerging as to whether the addition to the GOP ticket will bolster or weaken public favor.

Journalism professor Jack Colwell said the Ryan pick was made with the intention of reinvigorating the conservative base.

“I think [the selection] helped initially by energizing the base, especially the very conservative and Tea Party voters, who were suspicious of Romney, and thought that maybe he was a moderate,” Colwell said. “[Romney] wanted to have the campaign focus on economic issues … he thought Ryan was kind of the ‘fiscal guy,’ chairman of the House Budget Committee.”

Colwell said voter participation is likely to be the determining factor in the race.

“That’s the key,” he said. “The country is pretty well split down the middle. Whichever side gets their voters to the polls could decide it.”

Although the GOP ticket with Ryan stands to make gains from the right, Colwell said Ryan’s past stands on social programs and economic issues may hurt Romney’s prospects with senior citizens.

“You have Medicare in the budget that [Ryan] initially passed through the House,” he said. “His proposal to have a voucher system is having real problems, especially in Florida.”

Women, Colwell said, will be hesitant to vote for a ticket with the ardently pro-life candidate attached.

“The big problem is that it’s not helping with women, and there’s already a big gender gap, with women, by a sizable margin, for [President Barack] Obama,” he said.
Colwell said the media’s associating Ryan with recent comments made by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Miss., regarding abortion in the case of rape has created an additional challenge with the women’s vote. Ryan previous co-sponsored a bill with Akin that included an exception on prohibiting government funding of abortion in the case of “forceable” rape, Colwell said.

“The worst thing is Todd Akin’s [comments],” he said. “That’s something that Romney couldn’t have envisioned. It brought up the whole abortion issue.”

Sophomore Patrick Butler, director of political affairs for Notre Dame’s College Republicans, said he expects the debate to refocus on the economic issues, where the Ryan pick is bound to make a strong statement.

“They want to make a very bold contrast between the current administration and how Romney will handle things,” Butler said. “It’s a very bold statement about the economy and Medicare.”

Butler admitted Ryan’s tight fiscal policies are unlikely to win over many seniors, but said they may attract younger Americans concerned with the deficit.

“It might help among students like us. This is our future. We kind of have to worry about [the deficit]. I’d say it really depends on how much of Ryan’s plan Romney endorses.”

College Democrats president Camille Suarez said Ryan’s policies could isolate an even larger portion of the populace.

“I think the Ryan pick is definitely going to lose the lower-middle class,” she said. “If you look at his budget plan, it’s going to make taxes go up for Middle America.”

Suarez said his very conservative views might have more impact on the campaign process than simply winning or losing votes.

“He’s kind of representing the Republican economic plan, and it’s doing a lot to polarize the election,” she said. “That isn’t good for either party, and it gives the independent voters a harder choice.”

After the media frenzy surrounding the vice-presidential nomination of the then-Alaska governor Sarah Palin in 2008, Colwell said Ryan is a more reliable choice.

“Ryan is no Sarah Palin,” he said. “She was not ready for primetime. I think Ryan is … If someone asks what newspapers he reads, he’ll be able to name one.”

Butler said Ryan is more dependable and independent than his opposition, the sitting vice president.

“Ryan can definitely hold his own,” he said. “You don’t have to be worried about what he says, unlike Joe Biden.”

Butler said the Ryan choice served as a reminder for his club to stay on point.

“I think it energized at least our leadership,” he said. “We have to realize we have an election coming up, and I think the Paul Ryan pick has gotten us to realize this is the home stretch.”

Suarez said her club is now more driven to keep the administration in office and prevent Ryan’s policies from being implemented.

“I think we’re going to focus more on the national election now he’s been nominated,” she said. “Even the [U.S. Conference of Catholic] Bishops spoke out against [Ryan’s economic plan] which raises a red flag … We need to do all we can to make sure he’s not in office.”

Though Colwell said he believes Ryan is a good strategic choice for Romney, his viability as a running mate won’t be clear until November.

“I thought he was a good choice, and ultimately, if Romney goes on to win, it will be analyzed as a good choice,” he said. “The jury’s out on this, the focus for weeks now is on these social issue and on what ‘legitimate rape’ is and things like that, that will just kill the Republican ticket … They’ll certainly try to avoid that, and possibly, they can get the focus on the economy.”