There’s little doubt that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will fire up conservatives and get them to the polls. And he’s an attractive candidate with strong principles who will provide a formidable challenge to President Obama and Vice President Biden.
But there’s a potential downside with Ryan that Mitt Romney could have avoided by picking Hispanic Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, African American Florida Rep. Allen West, Condoleezza Rice, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley or any of the other half dozen or so women said to have been considered.
A presidential ticket is not just about competence and ideology. It’s a symbol to many Americans, an incarnation of their own hopes and dreams for the future. They want to be able to point to the candidates and tell their kids – whether they be little girls or children of color – “Look, you can be president too!” And they want to believe the candidates have experiences and backgrounds that will enable them to truly understand what they go through every day.
On this level, many of the swing voters Romney will need – moderates and even many Democrats – will be disappointed with this pick.
Nearly 60 percent of women in this country work, some because they want to, many because they have to. Many of these women may have been looking for something else in a ticket that instead includes two well off men – Romney much more so than Ryan, though Ryan has a net worth of at least $1 million.
These men’s wives can afford to stay at home and raise the children, which Ann Romney has done. I’m not sure about Janna Ryan, who had a professional career in Washington before she married her husband in 2000, though I see no evidence she works full time today.
Women who stay at home and raise their children work hard too. It’s just that this is not where most female voters find themselves. And Romney needs female voters.
I really have nothing against white guys either, since I was born one and remain that way . . .
But the reason Latinos went overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008 is because as a fellow minority, his elevation to the presidency reflected their own hopes and dreams. Rubio would have shifted those hopes to the GOP. And West would have at least told them the Republican Party was not quite as pasty white as they thought.
Many conservatives felt this way too. The fierce enthusiasm on the right for the candidacy of Herman Cain was partially a way of saying, “Hey, we are a Party for all people!” It’s part of the reason many conservatives wanted Romney to choose West.
And plenty of working mothers are Republicans.
Ryan will help Romney in many ways. But for many voters whose support and enthusiasm they need, after the thrill of seeing Obama, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin compete seriously for the highest offices in the land, the sight of two white guys with pretty blond wives who raise their children at home will fall flat.