Monday, August 20, 2012

Dipping a Toe Back Into the Presidential Campaign Waters: The VP Pick

I really meant to get out of the campaign analysis biz after the Republican Primary wrapped up.  In part this was because I didn't think the main event would be nearly as interesting as the clown cavalcade that rolled across Iowa and New Hampshire this winter. But also because I'm a Democrat and a strong supporter of President Obama.  And it's difficult to write neutral analysis when you have really strong feelings about the outcome of a campaign.  Besides, this is really just a little "friends and family" blog and not a political blog.  So it's not really the right forum for long-form political commentary.

However, in a recent e-mail round-robin with some friends we discussed Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his VP.  And while some of them thought it was a dumb pick by Romney, I thought it was a pretty smart pick for some reasons that weren't discussed by the punditocracy. I wrote a pretty long bit of analysis about it, and one of them thought it was worth sharing more broadly.  So, I reckoned I'd pop that up here on the ol' Patio Boat, since it seems to be a view that hasn't gotten much play in the media.

Here are my two cents on the real rationale for the Ryan pick:

As of the time of the announcement, Romney had been running right on pace for a narrow defeat: 52%-48% and maybe 300-238 in the electoral college.  Also, the Obama campaign has done a very good job of defining him as a rich guy who wants to help other rich guys and doesn't care about regular people.  That's hardly a stretch, I grant you.  But here I give credit to the Obama campaign for doing what they've needed to do on this front. Good political campaign make the easy layups.

In terms of changing that narrative of this campaign, Romney has been running out of time for events to intercede.  The economy's been bumping along without looking as if it will implode.  And at this point we're close enough to the election that a genuine international crisis would be more likely to present a "rally round the flag" bump for Obama than to provide any help for Romney's candidacy.

Mitt Romney felt he needed to take a risk somewhere to change the dynamic, and the VP pick was his last real opportunity to do that.  That weighed heavily against making a safe pick like Sen. Rob Portman from Ohio, who would've brought some electoral help in a swing state and been much less controversial than Ryan.

As an interesting aside here, Zach Green (@140elect on Twitter) tweeed at the time of the announcement that "@RobPortmanVP was created July 21st while @PaulRyanVP @MarcoRubioVP @TimPawlentyVP were created Aug 2nd" which is an interesting bit of evidence that Portman may have been the original pick.

So why the Paul Ryan pick when there were safer options? Here I think that a look back at his father George Romney's presidential campaign may give us a bit of insight into what Mitt was thinking here.

In one important way, Mitt is very like his father George Romney in that each derived much of his campaigning and political style from his CEO experience.  George Romney was a solid mid-20th century American CEO of the type who built companies with substance, reality, and industrial production with a sales structure to support those things.  In that way he may not have been ready for the shift of politics into the sound-bite era, which was why he was so readily taken down by the "brainwashed" comment that he must certainly have seen as a triviality.

Mitt Romney, however, is a perfect 21st century American CEO. He seems to believe that finance and a good marketing campaign are all you need, and that substance takes a back seat to those things.  Since Mitt has 40 years of experience and $300 million proving him right, I think that ruled his instincts here.

What did he do?  He went for the pick that reflects that: a guy who will help to keep the money flowing and is a really good salesman.

That's the thing about Ryan that most commentators seem to be overlooking.  As near as I can tell, Paul Ryan is not all that impressive in the "details, policy wonk, tough choices" sense for which he gets praised.  His "Ryan budget" is mostly a compendium of the right-wing wish list with a hefty assortment of magic asterisks to pretend the numbers add up.  But he did a great job of selling that to the always-gullible Beltway media.  And on the social issues Ryan has managed to find a place on the far, far right while coming across as reasonably moderate in his presentation.

As became evident early on when I started to take a closer look at the Republican primary, Mitt Romney's campaign has had nothing to do with reality or policy since it started, so why would anybody think that he suddenly wants to shift to a detail-oriented reality-based mode now? Romney is a smart CEO in terms of being able to pick talent, and he picked one of the best salesmen in the GOP for the biggest sales job in the world.  That's what Paul Ryan is very good at, and those who oppose him politically forget that at their own risk.

Plus, as has been pointed out by all the punditocracy, Paul Ryan's got dreamy blue eyes to die for.  Really, how could Mitt resist?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What has Summer 2012 looked like?

Thanks in great part to the new Canon EOS that Monique and I bought, we have some excellent proof that much fun was had this summer.  Here are some of the best photos of the summer ... thus far.

Katie the Beagle checks out the greenery.

Monique at the Eastern Market.

Flowers at the Eastern Market.

The FUN MG visits Arsen and Brigitte.

Sunset on Wolverine Lake.

Katie the Beagle greets Monique after a kayaking expedition.

Miggy slides home safe!

Battling swans on Wolverine Lake during a Fathers' Day cruise with Arsen & Brigitte.

The Dog Days of Summer have arrived.

Fine dining on the porch: cedar-planked trout, grilled eggplant, cucumber salad, baguette, cyser, and sparkling companionship!

Some of the best fireworks photos this summer were the mistakes.

The Great Race circled the Great Lakes this summer, with a stop in downtown Ypsilanti.

And now, some Tiki Night photos:

The magic hour of anticipation.

Fireworks! Fireworks! Fireworks!

My sister Susan drove out our way from Gettysburg a couple of times.  In between her drives we had a great deal of fun hosting Shea and Atlee for a two week visit.

Shea, Emerson, Atlee, and Greeley swimming.

Emerson takes his seat for a cruise.

Atlee swimming.

Kayaking in the canals.

Red, white, and blue petunias.

Heat lightning seen from the porch.

Make your own pizza night.

Miss Atlee heads out for her first-ever ride in a convertible.  Alas, it was almost also her first ride in a tow truck after the fuel pump died.

Greeley, the Friendly Werewolf.

Arsen & Brigitte brought one of their black-swallowtail cocoons for us to watch.  When it finally hatched the butterfly had a bit of a wing problem.  But since he eventually flew away after savoring a lot of petunia nectar, we like to think he's doing okay.

Yes, the FUN MG had to take the Ride of Shame after its fuel pump died.  Fortunately, all was repaired in time for the Dream Cruise!

John driving his classic car in the Dream Cruise. Hurrah!

Monique snaps a photo of the prettiest thing on route: herself!

Eventually, Monique took the wheel.

Even Batman was there.  And no, that's not a Batmobile next to him.

How many photos do people take on the Dream Cruise? Even your intrepid photographer was photographed!  (Though I rather suspect her focus may have been the MGB instead of me.)

And that's a wee assortment of photos from this summer.  I easily could've picked a hundred more, but hopefully this has given you all a sense of what this Summer's been like around Wolverine Lake.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The best way to spend rainy days in the summertime

Rainy work at home.
Katie the Beagle helps me
By sleeping on couch.