As race tightens VP debate becomes more important

Tonight’s TV debate between Vice President Joe Biden and his Republican challenger Paul Ryan will be exciting and important, although it will not affect the election outcome in any significant way.

That’s the belief, at least, of Gallup, whose recent report shows that none of the last eight debates between vice presidential candidates, between 1976 and 2008, had a major impact on the election results. In the 2008 election, for example, when Joe Biden debate Sarah Palin, support for the Republicans fell by only 1 percent after the debate, while support for the Democrats rose by 2 percent.

The race has tightened since Romney’s strong debate last Wednesday coupled with Barack Obama’s close to catastrophic performance. But, warns Nate Silver on his excellent political statistics blog FiveThirtyEight, in spite of Romney’s great success in the polls after the debate, he has not taken the lead in one of the ten “swing states” or “battle ground states”.

Romney, according to Silver, may have improved his chances of winning the election by 15 to 20 percent a result of his victory in the first TV debate, but:

”The more troubling sign for Mr. Romney, however, is that although he’s made gains, he does not seem to have taken the lead in very many state polls. That trend, if anything, has become more entrenched. Of the half-dozen or so polls of battleground states published on Wednesday, none showed Mr. Romney ahead; the best result he managed was a 48-48 tie in a Rasmussen Reports poll of New Hampshire.”

So Biden-Ryan debate tonight becomes very important for the remaining four weeks of the election campaign. For the Democrats the goal is to regain the lead and the momentum before Obama’s failed debate and for the Republicans it’s about not losing their new momentum. How will it happen?

I like Matt Miller’s advice to Biden in his weekly column in the Washington Post about what the vice president must do to win the debate. It will not be enough to accuse Romney of being a “liar” – more is needed.


Is Romney’s risky bet on Ryan about to fail?

Lots of stuff about Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate.

John Cassidy in The New Yorker writes about “desperation:”

Until Romney picked Ryan, the principal rationale for his candidacy had been that he was a practical businessman who could appeal to independents and get the economy moving. Now Romney has tethered himself to a conservative ideologue who serves in an institution, the House of Representatives, that, according to the latest Gallup poll, has an approval rating of ten per cent. Such an abrupt reversal smacks of desperation.

Nate Silver on his blog FiveThirtyEight calls the Ryan selection “dubious” and compares it to John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin in 2008. Silver thinks Romney’s chances of winning in November have been reduced.

My first take on the selection was that Mr. Romney had looked at the polls, concluded that he was losing, and deliberately made a high-risk choice that could shake up the campaign — somewhat as Mr. McCain did with Ms. Palin four years ago. Reporting since then, however, has suggested that Mr. Romney made the pick despite reluctance from his pollsters and others on his political team. So it looks increasingly as though he made a different sort of gamble — more of a true all-in move.

Paul Ryan has been called a ”deficit hawk” and we know he wants to cut the taxes, especially on high income earners, but also cut sharply in the government’s role when it comes to pensions, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. Leading economic commentators are punching holes in Ryan’s reputation as a responsible economist and write that it’s impossible to reach a balance in the economy with the Ryan plan.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times calls Ryan an “unserious” man. His plan would increase, not decrease, the deficit:

If this sounds like a joke, that’s because it is…Mr. Ryan isn’t a serious man — he just plays one on TV.

And the Financial Times’ Martin Wolf is equally critical, calling Ryan’s plan ”incredible.”

Is the Ryan bubble about to burst? Is Romney’s bet on this right-wing ideologue about to fail? It is still a bit too early to tell for sure. But the signs are ominous. We will know more after next week’s convention.

Uphill for Ryan — only 39 percent are happy with him

The first opinion poll is in and the verdict is not encouraging for Paul Ryan, the new Republican vice presidential candidate.

According to USA Today/Gallup, only 39 percent of Americans are satisfied with Romney’s choice while 42 percent are dissatisfied. It is the most negative numbers since George H.W. Bush in 1988 chose Dan Quayle as his running mate. Support for Ryan is even lower than for Sarah Palin four years ago, when 46 percent felt that her appointment was “excellent/very good,” while 37 percent deemed it “weak/bad.”

Now, Bush/Quayle won anyway, so there is still hope for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, especially since 39 percent of Republicans in the poll called the appointment “excellent” and 29 percent “pretty good,” which is promising for the Republican voter turnout in November.

Romney’s choice of Ryan has stirred up the campaignpot plenty, and just in a couple of days the previous debate on the weak economy, high unemployment and Obama’s handling of the economy, has become a whole new debate about how America’s future should look like and how the American society should meet and resolve the major economic issues.

In this debate, Obama’s/Biden’s vision of justice — “fairness,” where the rich help to share the burden through higher taxes and where the government and the government plays an important role in protecting the elderly and the poor stands in stark contrast with Romney’s/Ryan’s vision where the rich get more tax cuts and where the social security program is radically cut down as the role of the government is gradually reduced.

Paul Ryan is the Republican Party’s chief spokesman for the anti-government, super capitalistic America, and Mitt Romney, now with Ryan as his number two, is closely tied to that vision. With Ryan, Romney has been transformed from a moderate Republican, a man of the Republican establishment, to a member of the radical Republican right wing, where the born-again Christians and the Tea Party supporters feel so at home. And the Obama campaign will not let Romney and the American electorate forget that.

So, have President Obama’s chances of being reelected increased with Paul Ryan’s appointment? Yes, is the short answer. Ryan does not broaden the support for the Republican ticket — the independents find him too far right, the seniors want to keep Medicare, the poor need their Medicaid, and the women are largely pro-choice.

But let me add that vice presidential candidates do not directly decide elections, and two thirds of respondents in the Gallup poll said that who is that person does not affect how they will vote. Thus, the election in November will be a choice between Obama and Romney, although in a close race, Ryan can be a decisive handicap.