Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate on the Republican
ticket will help win Jewish votes. For the Democrats.
Ryan may help
Romney shore up support among Tea Partiers and evangelicals who don’t really
trust his claims of conversion to their cause, but it is those issues that will
cost him Jewish support.
Like everyone else in the Republican primaries,
Romney ran hard to the right and was expected to follow the Nixon dictum and
pivot toward the center for the general election. Even senior advisors expected
that when one spoke of the Etch-a-Sketch campaign.
But instead Romney
moved further to the right with his choice of a running mate.
critical and each party will be using Ryan to motivate its base to go to the
polls, but for Republicans that appeal to hardline conservatives could cost them
votes among undecided Jewish voters and independents in the center whose support
will be critical in an election as close as this one appears to
Romney’s effort to make Israel a partisan wedge issue in this
campaign is overrated.
Jews will still vote overwhelmingly Democratic
again this year and it is questionable whether the GOP can draw off enough of
their votes to make a difference in battleground states like Ohio, Nevada,
Pennsylvania and Medicare-sensitive Florida. His real goal isn’t really votes
anyway. It’s big bucks from conservative deep-pocket donors who put Israel at
the top of their agenda.
Foreign and defense policies are the Romney-
Ryan ticket’s weak spots. Neither man has any foreign policy experience –
Romney’s recent overseas trip showed he’s not ready for prime time in that realm
– and their combined military experience constitutes running down the gangplank
on a mothballed World War II battleship Saturday morning to announce the young
Wisconsin congressman’s selection.
While Republicans argue that Ryan’s
presence on the ticket will enhance its focus on jobs and the economy, in
reality it will shift the focus to his budget proposals that would significantly
alter Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and a host of other entitlement
programs high on the Jewish agenda.
Romney has praised the Ryan budget as
“marvelous” and said if he were president and it landed on his desk he would
Translation: he just bought it and made it his
Campaign aides scampered to distance Romney from the Ryan proposals,
saying he’d have his own plan once elected, but his longstanding aversion to
providing any specifics leaves the Ryan budget – now the Ryan-Romney budget – to
fill the vacuum and provide Democrats a very inviting target for hard-hitting
Ryan’s proposals call for cutting funding for social programs
so deeply that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and a national group of
nuns have publicly criticized it as harmful to the neediest in
The National Jewish Democratic Council, a partisan group, noted
that “A broad array of Jewish groups have criticized elements of Ryan’s budget
proposals, although without naming him.”
Ryan, who chairs the House
Budget Committee, is one of the most conservative members of the Republican
Caucus. The bishops and nuns may not like his plans to cut programs that “serve
poor and vulnerable people,” but, unlike most Jewish voters, they do like his
hardline views on abortion, gay marriage and reproductive rights.
damaging to the ticket may be his proposals to privatize Social Security,
transform Medicare into a voucher system and turn Medicaid over to the states
through block grants.
Democrats have dusted off their mantra and you’ll
be hearing it a lot: Romney and Ryan want to “end Medicare as we know
Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic
National Committee and is Jewish, said “families and seniors in my home state of
Florida want no part of a Romney-Ryan economic scheme that puts millionaires
ahead of Medicare.”
Imagine if George W. Bush had gotten his way in 2005
when he proposed privatizing Social Security by allowing contributors to put
their money into the stock market instead of the government trust fund. Much of
that money would have been lost when the Bush administration plunged the country
into its deepest recession ever.
Social Security is the proverbial third
rail of politics and Romney may have just stepped on it.
budget calls for more tax cuts for millionaires like Romney and his fat cat
contributors while making draconian cuts in federal spending on food safety,
energy research, environmental protection, infrastructure, college tuition aid,
food stamps, prescription drug coverage, workplace safety, women’s health
coverage, consumer protection, product safety and the like.
Ryan could do
more to keep Jewish voters in the Democratic column than any other single factor
in this election. Republicans will try to avoid specifics about the impact of
Romney-Ryan policies and they will tout Ryan’s courage in tackling tough fiscal
issues like entitlements, but voters like their entitlements (not so much yours,
but they like their own), and if they fear Ryan and Romney will take them away,
they’ll vote Democratic.
Jewish voters, with their strong
affinity for programs serving the needy and the elderly, could be the first to
punch the “no sale” button on the Romney-Ryan ticket. ©2012 Douglas M.