GOP vice presidential pick Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is just starting to hit the stump, and Democrats are already suggesting he’s overshadowing Mitt Romney – and may be a negative in key Congressional races in states like California.
We asked House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who knows his fellow GOP “Young Guns” co-founder Ryan well — and who has been relentlessly out across California pushing for Congressional candidates.
The Whip’s take: Ryan has already added “synergy” with Romney, policy substance and pizzazz to the GOP ticket — and will help push the margins in Congressional races as well.
“I think those two create a synergy together,” McCarthy told us today of the former Massachusetts governor and his Wisconsin running mate. “Watch Romney with him. It pulls out the personality people haven’t seen. It works really well.”
Already, he notes, voters are turning out in swing states to meet Ryan and “they see his youthfulness, his family – they understand his story,” his blue collar background and his personal loss of his father as a teenager.
”He opens up an opportunity” to bring new voters to the GOP, including women and youth, he argued. “Look at the crowds…there’s new excitement.”
McCarthy dismisses the idea that Ryan will hurt Romney with seniors in critical swing states like Florida. Ryan “is trying to save Medicare,” he said. “Put Ryan’s plan up against the Democrats’ plan. Their plan cut $500 billion, it makes Medicare go bankrupt. Ryan saves it,” and when it comes to the conversation about reforming Medicare, “he’s the best spokesperson to explain it.”
On health care, he argues, Ryan has gone “toe to toe…in five minutes able to tear apart Obamacare standing in front of the President…and you want your strongest person doing it, be able to talk about it on stage and put it in front of people.”
McCarthy has special insight into Ryan’s personality and policy credentials. Along with Rep. Eric Cantor, the three are the leadership of the GOP’s “Young Guns” program, billed as a “new generation of conservative leaders.”
The GOP Whip says “the great thing about Paul is that he’s about policy, not politics. Even Democrats, who at times philosophically disagree with him, can’t say something mean about him.”
But Democrats are strongly arguing that Ryan has a definite downside.
Some, like the House Majority PAC’s Andy Stone, suggest that the Ryan pick will have dramatic impacts on tight California Congressional races.
He cites Rep. Dan Lungren’s re-election drive against challenger Ami Bera as a leading example, saying that the veteran GOP candidate now has the dilemma of facing tough questions from independent constituents about the Romney-Ryan budget. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, who represents plenty of senior constituents in the Palm Springs area, should also be sweating the Ryan pick, he says.
“It’s going to affect those races in a dramatic way,” Stone says of the Ryan pick. “Those (GOP) candidates now own the Romney-Ryan (budget) plan — a plan that ends Medicare and explodes the deficit,” he said. “There’s nothing they can do to run from that.”
McCarthy insists “we will do well,” and he argues no one will have to distance themselves from Ryan, who manages to evoke Ronald Reagan optimism in his outreach to voters.
“He has his town hall meetings, he’s open, transparent and honest and he does not demonize the other side,” he said. “He listens. And he can debate.”
GOP strategist Mitch Zak, the media spokesman for the California GOP delegation to the Republican National Convention, says he’s already heard from excited delegates heading to Tampa and they are fired up about Ryan’s pick. They want to see him in person, and “the week after next cannot come soon enough,” he said.
From San Francisco Chronicle on August 14, 2012.