When it became clear that Republicans were going to throw principle aside and nominate the Mittster in 2012, there were a lot of Palin supporters who suggested Romney should select Governor Palin as his running mate. Such a move, it was argued, would help Romney solidify the conservative base and create some much needed excitement for the Massachusetts moderate’s lethargic campaign. I never liked that idea and have stated so on a number of occasions, most recently here. It’s always been my contention that the less Governor Palin is associated with Romney, the better, that there’s simply no upside to being closely associated with a guy for whom conservatism is a foreign language.
In choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney picked another conservative who, like Governor Palin, has enormous credibility with the conservative base — albeit with considerably less star power. Conservatives rejoiced when Romney picked Ryan, believing he would drag Mitt kicking and screaming to the right. Unfortunately for Ryan, that hasn’t happened and there’s already evidence that his association with Romney is undermining his conservative cred. In a piece at the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney explains why Ryan’s decision to jump aboard Team Mitt has hurt him with conservatives as he’s been the one forced to modify his principles by moving left in order to comport with his running mate’s … er … principles:
When he chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney won the trust of many conservatives, who thought Ryan would push the moderate Romney to the right. But that calculation overlooked the deference a running mate traditionally pays to a presidential candidate.
On Medicare and abortion, Ryan has already had to slide to the left in order to be a Romney’s good lieutenant. These moves have some Republicans on Capitol Hill worried that the intellectual leader of conservatives may have to cut and trim his convictions in the presidential campaign.
Ryan’s defining issue has been fixing Medicare, but joining Team Romney has forced him to do an about-face on the issue.
Medicare is already spending more than it is taking in. As baby boomers retire, Medicare rolls are growing faster than the economy is growing. As health costs rise, the per capita cost of Medicare will also rise faster than gross domestic product. Medicare is fast going bankrupt, and Ryan in 2010 laid out a plan to save it.
Ryan has not noticeably moved Romney to the right on the campaign trail. Romney, though, has dragged Ryan away from his conservative positions and his intellectual clarity.
What does this portend for a potential Romney-Ryan White House? When Romney tapped Ryan in August, one conservative activist told me he thought that if Republicans win in November, Ryan might be congressional conservatives’ lobbyist in the White House.
Ryan’s behavior over the past month, however, suggests he would instead be Romney’s tool for dragging conservatives over to Romney’s positions.
“That’s exactly what will happen,” one former Ryan staffer told me this week.
A month ago, if you asked who was the conservative movement’s intellectual leader in Washington, the obvious answer was Paul Ryan. Is that still true today? Would it be true during or after a Romney-Ryan White House?
I’m not suggesting that a Vice-President Palin would have allowed herself to be “Romney’s tool” for anything at all. She wouldn’t, which is one of the reasons there was never a chance that Mitt would select her to be his running mate. But that said, just being associated with a guy who still avers that there are “good parts” in Obamacare that he considers worth keeping can’t be good for a conservative’s future. As Romney’s running mate, sooner or later Ryan will have to explain why Romney’s right about those good parts, or why minimum wage indexation and ethanol subsidies are good for the economy. Watching Ryan defend this kind of nonsense, which he knows are poison to free markets, will be quite interesting. But by agreeing to be Mandate Mitt’s running mate, he’ll have to do just that. I wish him luck.