‘Ryan is a high-risk, high-reward vice-presidential pick’

Analysts say Paul Ryan (pictured right) is a bold, but potentially risky choice of running mate for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. FRANCE 24 asked observers from the left and the right why he’s a controversial pick.


Karlyn Bowman is a political analyst from the right-of-centre American Enterprise Institute. Darrell M. West is the director of governance studies at the left-leaning Brookings Institution.

In what ways does Congress Paul Ryan bolster Mitt Romney’s presidential bid?

Bowman: Romney could get a boost in public opinion and light a little enthusiasm at the base. It shows confidence on the part of Romney, because Ryan is a high-risk, high-reward choice. Ryan is young, attractive and well-liked, even by people who disagree with his positions. He will not be as threatening as democrats would like to portray him.

West: Ryan brings youth, enthusiasm and vision; qualities that have been lacking from Romney’s campaign. People are looking for someone with a plan to improve the economy and balance the budget. By picking Ryan, Romney automatically has a plan which has already been approved by the House of Representatives. It is a detailed plan for entitlement reform.

What liabilities does he bring?

Bowman: Democrats will portray Ryan as a radical who will hurt the middle class and the elderly, while exempting the rich from taxes. Obama had been consistently leading in opinion polls, except in the area of the economy, where Romney has always led. We will see if that changes.

West: Ryan’s plan has so many policy specifics that it will be easy for democrats to attack it. Only one-third of voters support the radical change in Medicare that Ryan has proposed. Medicare and Social Security have been called the third rail of American politics because they are two programs that remain very popular with the public. Romney wanted the election to be a referendum on the economy. But democrats can now refocus the race on what are the two competing visions. For Obama that is a much better narrative than defending 8% unemployment.

How are Congressman Ryan and former Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin alike and different?

Bowman: Both are young and enthusiastic figures, but Ryan is a lot more relevant. He has served as a congressman for several straight terms; he knows Washington inside and out and is well liked in the Beltway. Those are not things Palin could claim. Also, Ryan could appeal to voters in the key battleground states of Iowa and Wisconsin and potentially help win those. Palin was strong in Alaska, but did not have broader appeal in battleground areas.

West: Both candidates were picked to shake up the race; both were bold but risky choices. One important difference with Ryan is that he has a lot more substance. He is smart and articulate and good at defending his positions. Palin did not know enough about policy matters to hold meaningful debates. He does.

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