Patterico's Pontifications


Why Paul Ryan was smart to sit out 2012

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 4:00 am

[Posted by Karl]

Allahpundit is among those with heart-ache over Rep. Paul Ryan’s decision to stay out of the GOP presidential primary campaign, even while acknowledging Ryan would have been a long longshot for the nomination.  But Allahpundit’s analysis of a prospective Ryan run goes a long way to explain the wisdom of Ryan’s decision:

There are two great risks to a Ryan candidacy. One: He’ll succeed in turning the focus of the primaries from economic growth to entitlement reform. We can argue about whether that’s a good thing — although Americans care much more about the former than the latter, it may be that this conversation simply can’t wait another moment — but if the party ends up with Ryan’s agenda, it had sure better have Ryan as its nominee too. The worst outcome would be if he shifts the discussion but then ends up losing the nomination, leaving the nominee stuck having to champion Ryan’s goals albeit less effectively than Ryan himself would/could do. And two: A run risks destroying Ryan’s brand. If he jumps in and gets Pawlenty’d in Iowa and New Hampshire, he goes back to D.C. knowing that his reform agenda was rejected even by ardent Republican voters. That would cripple him on the Hill; even if the GOP cleaned up on election day, a new Republican Congress would suddenly be reluctant to pass his budget. He’s taking a big risk on a very long longshot and it could end up setting back not just his political career but his cause.

Beyond that, where’s he getting the money to compete with Bachmann in Iowa, Romney in New Hampshire, and Perry in South Carolina?

As it turns out, these concerns were exactly those of Ryan and his inner circle.

Moreover, in his heart of Eeyoreness, Allahpundit knows as well as anyone — and better than most — just how likely a Ryan campaign would have damaged prospects for entitlement reform.   He could tell you (and did) that the polling on Ryan’s Medicare reform plan is “supremely depressing, especially given rising awareness of the debt crisis.”   He is the man who wrote: “It’s one thing to spend your time focused on an issue that’s of secondary importance to the public vis-a-vis unemployment (see, e.g., ObamaCare), it’s another to spend your time focused on an issue that actually frightens the public when it’s worried about the economy instead.”  He is the man who wrote:

I’m so starved for good news in polling on Medicare that I’m willing to take the Jim Carrey position from “Dumb and Dumber.” What’s that you say? The chances of the American public supporting entitlement reform are one in a million?

So you’re telling me there’s a chance…

He is the man who looks at this issue and quips, “This is why I drink.”  Given how lukewarm Republicans are on Ryan’s plan, the odds were high that a Ryan candidacy would have ended badly for Ryan and worse for entitlement reform.

Of course, the argument for a Ryan candidacy can be found in Allahpundit’s observation that “if the party ends up with Ryan’s agenda, it had sure better have Ryan as its nominee too.”  As Beldar argued, Pres. Obama is going to base his campaign on demagoguing the Ryan budget, so the choice is who the GOP wants to defend and advocate it. 

I find this argument ultimately unpersuasive because it assumes that the GOP will be forced to adopt the Obama campaign narrative and play defense in 2012.  Although the establishment media will give Obama every opportunity to frame the campaign this way, the public ranks the economy in general and unemployment as more important issues.  It is no coincidence that Obama is scrambling to have some sort of jobs proposal next month and that the two leading contenders for the GOP nomination have been talking about jobs, jobs, jobs.  If Ryan was a candidate, let alone the nominee, the establishment media would do everything they could to keep his plan on a front burner.  Absent Ryan, Obama and the Dems will have to affirmatively push the issue, which will allow some other GOP nominee to suggest that Obama is raising it to distract from his miserable failures on economic growth and employment, if they so choose.

When I mentioned I was thinking about writing a post like this, Allahpundit replied that he recognized some “hypocrisy” in his Ryan lament post.  But I don’t think it’s hypocrisy.  Rather it’s romanticism and it’s tough to fault Allahpundit for that uncharacteristic display.  As someone deeply concerned about the debt bomb, I too would relish a grand debate over entitlement reform, with a candidate willing to hammer home the fact that Medicare As We Know It is going to end anyway.  But the debate would likely turn out to be less than grand, and the public likely to remain as mired in denial as they are now.  Accordingly, I would prefer to maximize the odds that the GOP wins the 2012 election, and minimize the damage until such time as the public moves into the appropriate stage of grief for the death of progressivism to actually accomplish something.  That may be more cynical and pessimistic than Allahpundit — which is saying something — but I suspect it was also the backdrop of Ryan’s very smart decision not to run.


34 Responses to “Why Paul Ryan was smart to sit out 2012”

  1. Would still make a great VP choice especially since fiscal policy linked to jobs and the economy ARE the debate we can win!

    Texas Mom 2012 (cee89f)

  2. Do you remember the last time we ran a member of the House as VP? William Miller in 1964 – didn’t work to well, if I recall correctly.

    Tim K (0e0f06)

  3. I agree with all of the points referenced in the link.

    But what was not mentioned in the link is why people were talking about Ryan running in the first place. We need to win the 2012 election more than planning the perfect cabinet for 2012 or presidential possibilities in 2016 or 2020. Right now people are still looking for a candidate that will make most people think, “Yeah, that’s it!”

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  4. Ryan can definitely do more damage to the opposition where he is. It is a bigger risk to the party and to him to run for president.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  5. I hope so, daley. The MSM and Obama would be wise to pretend he does not exist. He can’t frame the debate if no one gives him a chance. If he is not at the same debate as Obama, no one except the choir may be able to hear him.

    I think we have to assume that the MSM will be in the tank for Obama as much as ever. Televised national one-on-one will be the place where Obama’s challenger shows why a new president makes sense.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  6. Really it makes no difference. I have said before that a winning scenario would be for the GOP to sweep up in House and Senate and leave president Obama right where he is. People talk about gridlock and dysfunction and I say we can use quite a lot more of it when it comes to the legislative process. Enough of the laws already. Let’s have a lame duck term and get ready to install a team of adults in 2016.

    Al K.Hall (e41aee)

  7. Ryan would make a much better Speaker. After all, it is Congress that writes the laws; all the President gets to do is decide which ones to sign.

    Kevin M (563f77)

  8. Boehner has gone to great lengths to demonstrate his own uselessness and if Mr. Ryan were to exit House leadership then it would be a big step backwards for Team R in congress I think, and Mr. Hall is right that the Congress is our first and most important line of defense against further dirty socialist molestations

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  9. To Al K. Hall #6:

    There’s only one problem with your scenario… the power of the regulatory state that is well under way right now. Leaving Obama as the head of that regulatory state would be disastrous, since you can be assured he will veto every bill that attempts to rein him and the GOP won’t have quite enough to override any of his vetoes.

    bob (either orr) (6713b4)

  10. If the GOP were to retain the House, and gain the Senate, but fail to take the WH, their major effort would – for the four-years of the second Obama term – be a non-stop revocation by Congressional action of Executive Orders that will be flying out the door of the Oval Office.
    A first step in that would be to defund the West-wing staffing back to a more reasonable level.

    Another Drew - Restore the Republic / Obama Sucks! (3690ef)

  11. Re #6. Al, there is just one problem with that course of action: much of what government does is not legislative. The alphabet soup of agencies issue and enforce regulations that have the same force as laws but are never voted on by our representatives in the legislature. Upper level posts in the agencies are appointed by the President which puts his stamp on whatever comes out later. They in turn fill the more numerous lower level positions with like-minded people so that even if there is a change at the top the basic mindset and direction of the agencies remain much the same. And all of this happens without accountability to the people in whose name government supposedly is acting. So while legislative gridlock can be a good thing, we really can’t afford to wait to put the adults in charge because of the threat to liberty from the regulatory apparatus.

    the cube (b886d3)

  12. “I find this argument ultimately unpersuasive because it assumes that the GOP will be forced to adopt the Obama campaign narrative and play defense in 2012.”

    Absolutely agree. While Ryan, the GOP debt reduction architect, is a Party regular, he emerges from the Debt Ceiling and 2011 CR fiascos essentially untainted with the TEA counterinsurgents.

    The jobs battle centers on ‘Drill Baby Drill’ and emasculating the EPA, firing 200 lawyers at the SEC replacing them with accountants, tax reform, ad infinitum.

    The GOP had no chance of mounting a war, but claiming they got “98% of what they were after” was, once again, firing a warning shot and retreating.

    Glad the banner bearer wasn’t lost for nothing, but his general needs purging. Badly.

    gary gulrud (790d43)

  13. All this handwringing about failure to replace Urkel is the ghost of McClellan stalking the ranks.

    You bedwetters are unfit for duty. Il Douche is roadkill, the Orcs so demoralized, that 70% turnout is beyond hope.

    In 2008, the day Bush lifted the EO barring drilling, the oil price surge was broken. Perry, Palin and Bachmann are hitting that flank and it will crumble.

    gary gulrud (790d43)

  14. “You bedwetters are unfit for duty.”

    gary – It’s good to see the temperature has finally gotten warm enough for you to poke your head out of your ice cave up there to see what’s going on in the world. Either that, or you’re drunk commenting again. Nicely done.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  15. 14. Thanks, daley. I do appreciate that you do not let me just run amok, naked and rabid.

    gary gulrud (790d43)

  16. gary gulrud – I do what I can. Ima giver that way.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  17. Naked rabid people are almost as scary as demonic midget clown zombies.

    JD (d48c3b)

  18. JD, we were trying to avoid talking about spvrty.

    Another Drew - Restore the Republic / Obama Sucks! (3690ef)

  19. The absolute best thing about Ryan not running is we now know we get a conservative of an antiEstablishment flavor.

    The Beltway Collective knows Sans Persona is doomed to lose a quarter of their high-water total to Nor Laup, write-ins, car and hair laundry.

    Save Corpulent Karl, Houstonian, they are all scrambling to bag their physical silver and gold to buy Perry, lock, stock and barrel.

    gary gulrud (790d43)

  20. Al K. Hall

    Hey Al, how are your amigos, Nick and Rolf?

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  21. Hey Al K. hall hw you doing?

    From your bestest freind Al K.Da

    DohBiden (d54602)

  22. From your bestest freind Al K.Da

    Hmmm, I really don’t think those two get along. Not in public, anyway.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  23. Spartacvs (2d9449)

  24. so the Iraq war was responsible for 9-11 even though we went into Iraq 18 months later leftys?

    DohBiden (d54602)

  25. “claims voters who felt favorably toward the tea party movement valued deference to authority and libertarianism.”

    Spvrty – No contradictions there. Another stupid study by liberals who decide what the answers mean after the fact.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  26. Nearly 85 percent of tea party supporters said the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted “as the Founders intended,” compared to only 34 percent of other respondents.

    If true, then either there’s something terribly wrong with the sample, or it just means that almost every decent person supports the TEA Party movement. The article doesnt’ actually say how many of the 4500 interviewees were TPM supporters.

    But tea party supporters were twice as likely as others to favor constitutional amendments […] “The (tea party) supporters’ inconsistent views of the Constitution…”

    OMG. And this guy is a professor?! I guess logic wasn’t a prerequisite for whatever qualifications he accumulated.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  27. I think the Slow Lazy Troll was posting while inebriated. Again.

    Simon Jester (ba6bdb)

  28. Milhouse, what would be funnier is asking Slow Lazy Troll to interpret the Constitution. He’s really sharp when it comes to the Founders.

    Simon Jester (ba6bdb)

  29. Spartacus? That would be the moron Spartacus lauding Obama prematurely with: “mission accomplished” re Libya. That Spartacus.

    SPQR (6bda05)

  30. “The researchers also conducted 10 interviews and kept track of any signs and costumes at a tea party rally in North Carolina.”

    The researcher actually attended a single tea party rally? The of the amazing bravery that took! ZOMG!

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  31. Did spurty self-refudiate again?

    JD (af0807)

  32. An obot accusing others of Nativism?

    Do you get your talking points from American Dad?

    DohBiden (d54602)

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