TOPICS > Politics

Romney-Ryan ‘PowerPoint Ticket’ Emphasizes Economy, Fiscal Philosophy

August 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
After Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate, the Obama and Romney campaigns have tried to capitalize on the news, especially in key swing states. How might Ryan affect the election outcome? Judy Woodruff talks campaign strategy with Dan Balz of The Washington Post and NewsHour Politics Editor Christina Bellantoni.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we examine what the choice says about Mitt Romney and the state of the race.

For that, we’re joined by Dan Balz of The Washington Post and NewsHour Political Editor Christina Bellantoni.

Welcome to you both.

DAN BALZ, The Washington Post: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what does this say about Governor Romney, Dan?

DAN BALZ: I think two things.

One is — and something we often underestimate is the personal nature of a pick like this. All of these presidential candidates want comfort with the person they find as their running mate. And I think, in this case, what it talks about is a kind of, if I can, the essential kind of geekiness of the two people. They are numbers people.

They are numbers crunchers. This may be the first PowerPoint ticket we have had in American political history…


JUDY WOODRUFF: Coining a term.

DAN BALZ: …something you wouldn’t say about President Obama and Joe Biden or the last Republican ticket.

The second thing I think it says is, it gives us some sense of the kind of campaign that Governor Romney would like to think he wants to run.

And in that sense, what this says is he wants to run a campaign on the economy, but also on the big fiscal choices that he thinks contribute to the future of the country.

And in picking Ryan, he’s made an explicit statement about that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Christina, what does that say about what Ryan brings to the ticket in terms of his strengths?


Well, I think particularly appealing to the Tea Party, which has made its focus fiscal issues and debt and the deficit. Whether or not they actually understand all of the details in the budget, which we have obviously been talking about tonight, is going to be pretty important.

But they like the fact that this is someone who talks about, we can’t keep putting this burden on our — you know, on our children for the overspending in Washington. And so, this is something he’s able to talk about, communicate in a pretty authentic way.

And then don’t forget he’s 42 years old. This is someone who is able to connect with a little bit younger voters. He’s able to sort of campaign in a different way, a little more carefree style. And I think you’re going to see a lot of that. The campaign is saying you’re going to see him be a little looser.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dan, someone noted he’s the same — Paul Ryan, same age as Mitt Romney’s oldest son.

DAN BALZ: Absolutely.

And I remember the first time I saw the two of them together on the stage, which was in Wisconsin before the primary in April. I was struck by the similarity. I mean, you could look at Paul Ryan and say he could be one of Mitt Romney’s sons.

But what was most striking, I think, was the comfort level that Gov. Romney had. He was more relaxed. You could see it that day. He was happy to defer to Paul Ryan on some budgetary questions when they got into the Q&A. He just looked a lot more relaxed as a candidate than we sometimes see. And I think we have seen that in the first couple of days since the choice was unveiled.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask both of you what this says now about what Romney needs to do in the campaign.

Christina, how has that changed, or has it with the pick of Ryan?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Well, it can put a lot of pressure on him to get specific, because he’s going to keep being asked this question. Is it the Ryan budget that you are putting forth?

And so that’s one area about it. But it’s also about this. It’s elevating the congressman a little bit to be the sparring partner with the president. They have already done that a few different years since President Obama took office. And it’s elevating him a little bit more. You’re seeing Barack Obama out there on the stump engaging with Congressman Ryan and really taking a look at going at Congress, running against Congress.

He’s already been doing that all year as it is, saying Congress is standing in the way and not getting anything done. So that will be definitely part of the dynamic. So, for Mitt Romney, he needs to get out there and talk about other things if he doesn’t want this campaign to be about the choice between Washington Republicans and the White House.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does the Romney challenge change, Dan, with this pick?

DAN BALZ: No, I think it’s still the same challenge.

I think it sharpens some of the differences. And it’s one of the reasons that Democrats are pretty happy about this pick, as much as Republicans are enthusiastic about it. They see the ability now to draw very sharp contrasts and ones that they say, the Democrats, think will work in their favor, particularly in some of the key states.

But for Gov. Romney, it is still, how do you drive home the message about the economy and what he would do about it? How do you drive home the idea that the president has underperformed, hasn’t led on the economy? These have been the challenges all along. And I think that they are still there, so that, in a sense, the basic contours of the race aren’t different. But with Paul Ryan, there’s just something more sharply etched about it right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dan, what about the challenges for President Obama? How does it change what he faces?

DAN BALZ: Well, I talked to one of his advisers on Saturday about this. And their feeling is, in the end, they’re not going to be talking about Paul Ryan by October. They’re going to be still talking about Mitt Romney and the basic choice.

And they think that the battle lines were pretty well drawn before between the kind of economic program that the president espouses and the kind of focus on the middle class and what they want to portray Governor Romney as, as somebody who is much more sympathetic to the wealthy.

But I think that it will raise questions about how specific President Obama has been on some of these issues, and I think particularly on whether he’s really given real leadership on the issues of the fiscal crisis that the country faces.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in many ways, we will be looking to the president, to his campaign, Christina, to see what shifts in his tactic and approach because of this.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Sure. Absolutely. And it’s not just going to be on fiscal issues. They’re certainly going to be looking at Congressman Ryan and his positions on some social issues. They have been really targeting female voters, as we have talked about many times on the NewsHour.

And that’s something that you’re going to continue to see, particularly — Congressman Ryan is a pro-life Catholic. He’s been out there campaigning on those issues. And he’s going to keep that up, particularly going to states like Iowa, states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio. That’s going to be a really crucial area for both campaigns to engage on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk for a minute about the electoral map, Christina. You have been looking at the map. Congressman Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin was already considered a battleground swing state. What does this mean for Wisconsin?


Well, Wisconsin is such an interesting state, because it hasn’t actually voted for a Democrat — for a Republican for president since 1984 in the Reagan landslide. So, you have got a lot of really core Democratic support there. But it has been trending Republican at the state level for quite some time.

You obviously had Scott Walker’s recall election which he survived, his initial election where he became governor. You have had congressional races get more Republican there. The legislature slipped. So there’s a lot of dynamics there. It’s a very, very engaged Republican Party in that state, not to mention the Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is from there.


CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: So there’s a lot of energy there.

But, really, and when you take look at our Vote 2012 Map Center, which you can use on our site, we have identified the swing states here, but if you add Wisconsin to that mix, that’s 10 Electoral College votes that really could shake things up a little bit.

All of that said, we have talked a little bit about this issue with the Ryan budget and changes to Medicare, and particularly what that could do in Florida with senior citizens there and whether that makes that less of a competitive state for Gov. Romney.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s right, Dan. Some other states now become in — come into focus more because of the Ryan pick, don’t they?

DAN BALZ: Very much so.

And I think that, as Christina said, that the one aspect of bringing Paul Ryan on to the ticket is I think it guarantees a much more vigorous debate about the future of Medicare. And that can be difficult for Republicans, and particularly in a state like Florida, also in Iowa, also in Ohio, also in Pennsylvania.

But just look at Florida. That’s a state that if Gov. Romney doesn’t win, there’s almost no way he can win. There are — there’s a path, but it is a very narrow path without Florida.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we thank — 27 electoral votes, if I’m not mistaken.

DAN BALZ: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dan Balz, Christina Bellantoni, thank you both.


DAN BALZ: Thank you.

GWEN IFILL: You can find more online on our Politics page. Judy, Christina, and I talk about the vice presidential pick in this week’s Political Checklist. Plus, we have posted Judy’s 2011 interview with Congressman Ryan.

And a programming note: We promised to bring you a conversation tonight with Gov. Romney, but the campaign canceled that. We hope to reschedule soon.