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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Rolling the dice

OK, scratch the Etch a Sketch.

Mitt Romney's likely announcement of Paul Ryan as his running mate suggests the presumptive Republican presidential nominee still hasn't closed the deal with the GOP's conservative wing. And that makes Eric Fehrnstrom's suggestion that Romney will tack back toward the middle, well, inoperative.

The selection of Ryan, an untested 42-year-old who has called for a radical overhaul of entitlement programs, is a move designed to shake up a campaign that has had its fair share of bad news lately, pummeled by Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and a Super PAC over his income taxes and tenure at Bain Capital. And that doesn't even begin to factor in Romney's overseas stumbles.

Even more significant than the horse race polls, which should not carry a lot of weight this early, are Romney's rising negatives, now lapping the 50 percent unfavorable mark.

All that apparently convinced Romney to "go bold" and tap the conservative heart throb who got a rousing endorsement from the Wall Street Journal editorial page even before the announcement.

But is it boldness -- or desperation? That Romney feels the need to shore up his base just weeks before the GOP convention is a sign of weakness.

And in tapping Ryan he has opened up a whole new line of attack for Democrats and the Obama campaign, still smarting over the GOP's use of Social Security and Medicare fears to win the House in 2010.

Does anyone really think an Obama campaign that has not shied away from the negative is not going to feast on Ryan's plan to turn Medicare into a voluntary insurance program?

Even the timing of the announcement hints at the desire to change the subject: hard up against the last day of the Olympics and closing ceremonies. Yes, it is slower on weekends and Romney will now have the top spot in just about every Sunday newspaper.

But it won't be as clear a headline sweep as if he had waited even one more week, when people had already stopped talking about the Games.

The bright side of the pick? It cannot possibly be worse than John McCain's selection of a then 44-year-old first term Alaska governor.

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