Jonathan Bernstein sums up why he doesn’t take the Christie and Ryan boosterism seriously:
There’s just an enormous amount of grass-is-greener thinking going on here, sparked among other things by the length and, well, invisibility of most of the invisible primary.
This is related to what I was trying to say yesterday. If Ryan jumped in at the end of the month, there would be another round of calls for Christie to enter, and vice versa. If they both decided to run, it might not be long until the drumbeat started for Marco Rubio, or maybe Jindalmania would return after being dormant for several years. Before they enter, the would-be candidates’ flaws are minimized or ignored, or they are treated as the reason why they should be candidates (see Ryan and Medicare reform), and then after they jump in we hear many of the same people lamenting how unfortunate it is that the field is full of so many seriously flawed candidates.
The strange thing is that the desire to find better candidates lends itself to a desperate willingness to tolerate the entry of even weaker or more compromised candidates into the race. Republicans convinced that the party can and must provide a more compelling field of potential nominees seem to have a knack for choosing alternative candidates less viable than the ones they already have. The field is weak, and they demand that it be made even weaker.
Since many people seem intent on treating him as a potential presidential candidate, let’s look at some basic facts about Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan starts off as a relatively unknown Congressman from Wisconsin. Half of the public doesn’t know enough about him to have an opinion. When Bloomberg bothered including him in one of its national polls in June, he had a net negative favorability rating, and his proposal for Medicare reform was wildly unpopular. His favorability has dropped to 41% in his home state as well. He would be unlikely to carry his home state. While he clearly has some significant support among party and movement elites, he does not have much of an established fundraising network, and he would be up against several other formidable fundraisers in the current field. Probably the most effective argument against Obama that Republicans have is that Obama has not been a good executive, so it makes no sense to put forward as a candidate someone who has had exactly as much executive experience as Obama had before he was elected.
At its core, Ryanmania is based on the assumption that serious entitlement reform is popular, or at least that it would become popular if it were presented by the right person in the right way. Further, it takes for granted that pushing entitlement reform in the context of a presidential election will help the GOP win the next election. As Antle said earlier today, “I just don’t see anything in the last 30 years of American politics that should inspire this confidence.” The curious thing is that Ryan boosters are acting as if the GOP hadn’t just won its House majority partly by railing against the health care bill’s Medicare cuts. It was just last year that Republicans were demagoguing changes to Medicare with the best of them, and now many of them want to go before a less conservative general electorate with a Medicare-cutting reform advocate as their standard-bearer. Ryan would be wise to ignore them and stay where he is.