One of the fascinating things that has happened in the wake of Romney’s decision to put Paul Ryan on the ticket is the attempt by so many Republican candidates for the House and Senate to distance themselves from his controversial tax and medicare plans. Politico reports that Republican operatives are very concerned about the damage Ryan could do to Romney’s campaign and to the downticket races as well.
In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.
It is not that the public professions of excitement about the Ryan selection are totally insincere. It is that many of the most optimistic Republican operatives will privately acknowledge that their views are being shaped more by fingers-crossed hope than by a hard-headed appraisal of what’s most likely to happen.
And the more pessimistic strategists don’t even feign good cheer: They think the Ryan pick is a disaster for the GOP. Many of these people don’t care that much about Romney — they always felt he faced an improbable path to victory — but are worried that Ryan’s vocal views about overhauling Medicare will be a millstone for other GOP candidates in critical House and Senate races…
They’re worried about inviting Medicare — usually death for Republicans — into the campaign. They’re worried it sidetracks the jobs issue. They’re worried he’ll expose the fact that Romney doesn’t have a budget plan. Most of all, they’re worried that Romney was on track to lose anyway — and now that feels all but certain.
I’ve been saying all along that this is going to be a very close election, but I think putting Ryan on the ticket boosts Obama’s prospects considerably. If I had to place a bet right now on the election, I’d bet on Obama.