Independently of the George Will column that I cited, and chuckled at, in a previous post, Jonathan Chait shrewdly susses the strategy behind the Romney campaign’s alliance with Rep. Paul Ryan. Writes Chait:
What is the political calculation of the Paul Ryan pick (to the extent that it’s a calculation at all)? It’s not a ploy to gin up the conservative base, which is already rabidly motivated. It’s an attempt to claim for the Romney campaign the political high ground. Romney is now running on a meta message about himself: We are serious, substantive, and good; they are frivolous, dishonest, and mean.
Firstly, I still think Will is comically off-base in imagining Romney as some sort of Boy Scout naif who’s scandalized by Team Obama’s tough campaign attacks. Romney wants to win this thing; he’s been willing all along to slough off whatever political integrity he had left since his risible ’08 campaign. He calculated, rightly, that the attacks on his business record were working, and that he and the boys in Boston needed to adjust accordingly.
Secondly, here is the problem, as I see it, with claiming the “high ground” and leaving behind and below all that nasty Chicagoland brass-knuckle stuff: The Obama campaign will be happy to meet Romney and Ryan there. The primary reason Obama hit the gas on Bain Capital and tax returns is that there was nothing else to talk about. Save for his trip abroad, Romney had sought to train the focus of his campaign exclusively on the Obama administration’s failure to create more jobs. This was not the terrain on which Obama could fight from a position of strength.
Or so it seemed.
Knocked on his heels for a month-and-a-half, Romney is shifting gears. He and Ryan are going all-in on a quixotic campaign to reform entitlements, slay the debt dragon, and unleash the magical powers of America’s shackled genius industrialists.
In Chicago, I imagine they’re breathing an unlikely sigh of relief: They’re going to let us talk about something other than jobs — and they’re going to congratulate themselves for it!
In effect, the Romney campaign has walked into a trap of its own making.
I’m right back to where I began Saturday morning on hearing the news of Ryan: