The curtain is just rising on the introduction of Mitt Romney's Paul Ryan Vice Presidential play and we have already heard from many corners about his potential strengths and weaknesses. I would like to focus on something more fundamental that this pick tells us. Mitt Romney and his campaign have decided strategically that this election is a base election and it is about motivating Republicans and conservatives and not about persuading swing voters.
This Ryan pick isn't going to help close the gap with Latino voters. This isn't going to persuade suburban, middle class moms to support the ticket. This pick is an acknowledgement on the Romney campaign's part that they see their only path to victory as motivating their base.
We have seen some evidence of this effort to motivate the base from the tactics of the Romney campaign over the last few months, but I think this pick is a clear signal that this is their strategy for the remaining days ahead. And I don't think they will be subtle any more about it. I think you will see analysis from them that they can win this election without increasing support among Latinos or by having progressive social appeals to suburban moms.
I think they have decided that a lesson learned about base motivation from Bush's 2004 race is applicable in 2012, and it isn't surprising since many of their key staff worked on that campaign.
Time will tell whether this strategic choice is a good one. Many campaigns that have repeated strategies from previous winning campaigns have gone on to lose because the political environmental factors of the country had changed.
Interestingly, the Obama campaign has also employed some of the successful tactics of the Bush 2004 campaign (defining your opponent early and often in the summer as well as taking ad dollars from the fall and moving them up before Labor Day). It seems, however, the Obama campaign sees this election through a combination of motivation and persuasion, thus dividing resources between swing voters and shoring up Democrats.
Who has made the right strategic choice? We won't know until November, but the Ryan pick is certainly a sign that the final act of the Romney play is targeted at the Republican base.