Picking Ryan may indicate that Romney recognizes his current strategy—avoid policy details and talk about the bad economy—isn’t working. Ryan is a hero to conservatives, who pushed hard for him. His selection may energize them and allay their distrust of Romney. Ryan is more charismatic than Pawlenty or Portman, and picking him gives the media something to talk about besides Romney’s tax returns.
However, my view is that picking Ryan is a mistake. Ryan may give Romney a slight bump in Wisconsin, but probably not enough to overcome Obama’s five-point advantage there. More importantly, Democrats can sum up Ryan’s budget succinctly —cut taxes for the rich and pay for it by ending Medicare as we know it and gutting Medicaid. Ryan’s proposals poll poorly. Democrats would have attacked Romney’s support of them anyway, but the attack will have much more effect with Ryan on the ticket. It could well hurt Republicans down-ticket. Ryan’s proposed overhaul of Medicare seems certain to scare seniors. If that costs Romney Florida, he could flip North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada and still lose. He’d better hope Rick Scott’s purge of the voter rolls succeeds.