(Photo: REUTERS/Scott Audette)
Pundits, politicos and campaign strategists spent the last week debating the wisdom of Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate. Most lined up on one of two polar opposite viewpoints: Romney made a solid pick that will help win the day by keeping the election focused on important issues, or Romney doomed his chances to win the election by picking a right-wing ideologue.
Those who say Ryan hurts the campaign argue that he neither helps expand Romney's base of voters nor helps him win a swing state, and takes away from Romney's focus on jobs and the economy. Those who say Ryan helps argue that he turns Romney into a reform candidate.
Ryan "does not help Romney to win Ohio, Florida or Virginia," wrote liberal columnist and Fox News contributor Juan Williams for The Hill. "His focus on budget cutting is out of step with the voters' focus on creating jobs.
"All of this is hurting Romney's effort to win core constituencies, particularly senior citizens -- but also moderate women and the large middle of the American electorate, independents."
Ryan may be popular with the Republican Party's core conservative voters, Williams continued, but beyond that base, "Ryan does not help Romney win a single vote that he did not already have locked up."
E. J. Dionne, a liberal columnist for The Washington Post, had a similar reaction. Democrats are elated at the Ryan pick, Dionne wrote, because it helps their message that a Romney presidency would be harmful for those who rely upon government services, such as Medicare.
"Americans often oppose government in the abstract but actually want it to do quite a lot. Thanks to Paul Ryan, this year's debate will be anything but abstract," Dionne wrote.
Liberals weren't the only ones raising concerns about the Ryan pick. Politico reporters Alexander Burns, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin interviewed about three dozen Republican strategists and campaign operatives.
Their reactions to the Ryan pick "ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election," they wrote.
Some of these strategists thought picking Ryan was a gamble that could either doom the campaign or result in a huge payoff. Others thought that Ryan's plans for reforming Medicare would basically guarantee a second Obama term.
Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication, takes a different view. Kristol encouraged Romney to choose Ryan. He argues that the choice will fundamentally change the nature of the campaign to one "about big issues and big choices."
Republicans can win as long as the campaign is about the most important issues of the day, such as the national debt and health care reform, Kristol believes.
"Now it's the Republicans who are running on a newly bold conservative message, presenting a hopeful choice for change rather than mere opposition to the status quo, and on a ticket enlivened by Ryan's presence and skills," Kristol wrote.
Jack Kelly, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, believes that the focus on Medicare that has resulted from the Ryan choice will end up hurting Democrats.
By focusing on Medicare, Kelly argues, Republicans can make an argument about the Affordable Care Act and the $716 billion in Medicare savings that was used by President Obama to suggest that his health care reform law would not add to the deficit.
"Because it worked before, Democrats assume Mediscare will work for them again. They don't appreciate -- yet -- how much the public's aversion to Obamacare has changed the game," Kelly wrote.