Following Mitt Romney's announcement of his running mate, I looked at the Romney vs. Ryan tax plans and I don't want to add too much more to the speeding Ryan express (sorry film and baseball fans; I couldn't resist!) of information. But in surfing the Web, I ran across some Ryan and VP-related pieces that are definitely worth sharing.
Whys and wherefores of VP picks: Let's get the wonkiness out of the way first. A few days ago Nate Silver examined in his FiveThirtyEight blog how Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick could sway the election outcome.
One thing a running mate can do is improve a presidential candidate's standing in the potential veep's home state. In a close race, that could help nab critical electoral votes.
Ryan made Silver's list of potential VP choices, coming in with a net 4.9 percent positive rating in Wisconsin. That gives, by Silver's calculations, Romney a 0.7 percent favorability increase in the cheeseheads' popular vote.
But Ryan's ranking was the lowest upward swing of the vice president possibilities who had a positive effect. So unless Mitt's numbers crunchers came up with different figures, Ryan won the veepstakes for other reasons.
Other reasons, risks for Ryan: That led to Silver's subsequent post looking at the risky rationale behind Romney's selection of Ryan.
Since Ryan isn't the most natural choice, says Silver, Romney apparently picked him because he felt he was losing the race. Recent polls seem to support both Silver's and presumably Romney's assumptions.
So going with Ryan is the clichéd proverbial game changer to get the Romney candidacy going the desired direction.
But Romney choice also strikes many as counter-intuitive.
While candidates tend to play to the base, which generally is the most extreme segment of the party, during primaries, the conventional wisdom is that they must move to the center in the general election.
Not so with Romney's choice of Ryan.
And, says Silver, that move might not work out as Romney and crew hope.
Although playing to the electorate's center rule has more frequently been violated when it comes to vice-presidential picks, Silver says there is evidence that presidential candidates who have more "extreme" ideologies (closer to the left wing or the right wing than the electoral center) underperform relative to the economic fundamentals.
Can we extrapolate the same result for vice presidential candidates?
"Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900," says Silver. "He is also more conservative than any Democratic nominee was liberal, meaning that he is the furthest from the center."
The graphic at left provides a clear (and colorful!) example of the most ideological vice presidential nominees. It doesn't take into account governors and other nominees who never served in Congress. That's Ryan there at top (the yellow-highlight line) showing him ahead of Dick Cheney when it comes to being conservative.
Click the image to go to the blog post with Silver's full analysis, as well as a larger view of the VP ideology scale.
But I'll go ahead and share Silver's conclusion: "If Mr. Romney wanted to make the best pick by [possible electoral college impact], he would have been better off to choose an alternative like Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, or Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia."
House VP curse: Politico blogger Charlie Mahtesian says there is one notable drawback to selecting House members as presidential running mates. The last two times it happened, it didn't end well.
The Walter Mondale, Geraldine Ferrarro ticket of 1984 suffered an epic 49-state defeat.
In 1964, Barry Goldwater lost in a landslide with New York Rep. William Miller as his vice president.
The last sitting Representative to win as a veep? Texan John Nance Garner, who was Speaker of the House in 1932 when he was first tapped as Franklin D. Roosevelt's running mate.
Get to know Paul: Let's close on a lighter, and more personal note.
CNN's Amy Ryan takes a look at some of the numbers surrounding Ryan and comes up with such tidbits as:
- he was 28 when he was first elected to Congress (he's 42 now),
- he and wife Janna have three kids (two sons and a daughter),
- the number of days each week he works out using the P90X exercise regimen (6),
- the percentage of vote Ryan won in the 2010 House election (68) and
- the number of times he's driven the Wienermobile (1, a chance he got when he was a salesman of Oscar Mayer meat products in the upper Midwest).
That last tidbit gives me a chance to note that while I've never driven the famous hot dog shaped auto, I have seen it in person twice. Hey, I'll take any claim to fame!
If you're still hungry for more political (and other) numbers about Ryan, CNN has been keeping count.
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