Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin: Different Roads, Same Destination


Ryan's speech is being crafted in tiers, according to two Romney-Ryan aides. An adviser described Ryan as the "main driver." Ryan's congressional staff -- Conor Sweeney, Joyce Meyer and Andy Speth -- are helping play up his Wisconsin roots, while Romney adviser and Ryan's good friend, Dan Senor, coordinates between the two camps.

Palin, of course, used the 2008 Republican National Convention as a launching pad for a unique career as intra-party iconoclast and leader. Her engaging speech (think "hockey moms" "pit bulls with lipstick") was the high point of a troubled candidacy and, if only for a moment, made it seem like the Republican ticket might soar past Barack Obama.

What's been largely forgotten, though, is the near panic inside the party and among McCain campaign officials before Palin's address. There is none of that this time around. Ryan knows how to give a speech. He is a prolific fundraiser, having brought in $3.1 million by the end of March, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, despite facing no legitimate threat to his congressional seat.

Both are also popular with a certain community inside the much-scorned Republican "elite." The Weekly Standard's editor and founder Bill Kristol pushed hard for Palin and Ryan, respectively, to be selected as the GOP's vice presidential candidate, and his argument has now twice won the day.

"I think Ryan makes Romney a better candidate," Kristol told Politico Aug. 12. "After the Romney-Ryan ticket wins, I'm looking forward to retiring from the VP-picking business."

If the Romney team wins, Kristol, the conservative writer, will have "picked" his first successful nominee.

What inspires the base, however, by its very nature, is likely to alienate some independent or undecided voters. And the very apparent policy differences between Ryan and Romney, like with McCain and Palin, can very quickly spiral into real trouble for a campaign.

In Ryan's case, the issue sprung up last week when Missouri congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin made his remarks about rape and abortion. Days later, Ryan was stuck answering questions about his work with Akin on an anti-abortion bill in Congress, and trying to explain how his views could be reconciled with his running mate's less-conservative position.

Romney believes abortion should be illegal, with exceptions made in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is imperiled. Ryan would only allow for the latter. When ABC News asked Ryan whether he found it difficult adjusting his positions to jibe with the other half of the ticket, he said no, and allowed that Romney's stance was, for him, a "step in the right direction."

Palin and McCain also had some headline-grabbing policy disagreements, but their efforts to explain away the divisions by saying "a couple of mavericks aren't always going to agree on every issue," lost traction. Palin notably "went rogue" when McCain campaign officials gave up the ghost in Michigan, diverting funds and time to other states, telling Fox News she disagreed with the decision and thought it was a mistake.

Ryan is unlikely to provide such fireworks; he's more practiced, more polished. His ties to the Republican establishment are much stronger than Palin, whose power base always lay well outside Washington. But even as their future paths are sure to draw them apart, for now, at this moment, Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin don't look so very different.

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