When Mitt Romney introduced House Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate, the airwaves rang with the sound of news anchors everywhere gushing about Ryan’s “brave” budget plan, his policy expertise, and even his workout routine. But since becoming Mitt’s right-hand man, Ryan has eschewed his views on key conservative issues in favor of Romney’s.
Ryan On ‘Legitimate Rape’
Since the firestorm following Rep. Todd Akin’s remarks about pregnancy and rape, the Romney campaign has been working feverishly to distance itself from that extreme platform. The Romney-Ryan duo released a statement on the issue that read, “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape”.
But it wasn’t so long ago that Rep. Ryan had “legitimate rape” concerns of his own. During his tenure in the House, Ryan has voted for multiple bills that redefine Medicaid abortion exceptions to apply only to “forcible rape” – as opposed to the current exceptions under the broader terms of rape and incest. In fact, Ryan hasn’t just voted for such bills, he’s sponsored them. Remember H.R. 3, the controversial anti-choice bill that inspired the International Walk for Choice? Ryan co-sponsored that bill with 226 others, including Todd Akin. Yes, that Todd Akin.
Perhaps so much time has passed from February 2011 to now that Ryan has had a change of heart. Perhaps he was personally touched by the international demonstrations against his bill. Or perhaps vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has sold out as hard and fast as H.W. Bush did to get on the Reagan ticket.
Of course, Paul Ryan may soon be able to return to his extreme stance on abortion. After all, the GOP’s first draft of a new platform includes a promise of a Constitutional ban on abortion with no exception for rape or incest.
The Ryan Budget- In Or Out?
One of the main reasons Paul Ryan was chosen for Mitt Romney’s ticket was his extremely conservative budget. Sure, the majority of Americans who have heard of the Ryan plan disagree with it, but it was presented as the anti-Obama path to our fiscal future and that’s all that really matters to the GOP’s target voting bloc.
Strangely, the Romney campaign hasn’t quite decided how they feel about the budget. At first, it was assumed that Romney would embrace the budget to appeal to conservatives. But then, both Romney and Ryan made it clear that that the presidential candidate would not be deferring to Ryan’s budget, but would be presenting his own. Then Romney praised Ryan’s budget a lot while still insisted they were different. And just as quickly, a Romney advisor went on record saying that the plans were very similar, especially when it comes to turning Medicare into a voucher system.
It’s unclear what parts of the Ryan budget Romney is on board with since the candidate has all but refused to talk about the specifics of any of his policies. And Paul Ryan certainly hasn’t fought for the $700 billion Medicare overhaul that is the keystone of his controversial budget plan, and is on board with Romney’s claim that no part of Medicare will change for people over 55. If Romney can keep questions off of the specifics of his budget plan – no easy feat in an economics-intensive election – then Ryan won’t be called on by conservatives to staunchly defend his principles. But if the duo gets hammered with questions on the specifics, Ryan the alleged “budget hawk” will have to double down on his austere strategies to hold onto conservatives.
National Spotlight Shines On Ryan’s Spending, Establishment Habits
Paul Ryan appeals to the Tea Party principles of cutting government size and spending, and he has been able to proudly state that he has voted against President Obama’s big spending consistently for the last three years. Unfortunately, he can’t say the same about TARP, the 2008 auto loans, the inefficient Medicare prescription overhaul, and the highway funds plan that included the now-infamous “Bridge to Nowhere”.
Even though Ryan didn’t vote for the 2009 stimulus bill that infuriated so many conservatives, he’s not entirely innocent on that front either. Ryan specifically requested stimulus funds for green jobs, and later praised those jobs. He initially denied these facts when questioned, but then admitted that his office had requested the funds and called the action an error.
Beyond his history of big spending, Paul Ryan may be too much of an establishment Republican for Tea Party conservatives. The Tea Party is famous for railing against President Obama’s spending in particular, but has also taken long-time Republicans to task for being “too Washington”. As an Obama administration aide said earlier in the week, Ryan is about as Washington as it gets. He’s voted with his party 90% of the time, which isn’t too exciting for voters who want a chance to shake things up in the District.
Conservative Hero? Time Will Tell.
The Romney campaign got some temporary mileage off of touting Paul Ryan as a conservative hero. Romney eschewed a large part of the women’s vote by going all in for the ultra-conservative, but may not have gone far enough in his bid to find a candidate that would be willing to defer to him. Ryan’s RNC and vice presidential debate performance will go a long way in gauging just how much conservatives and moderates like him, but ultimately only time will tell if he is enough of a conservative hero to motivate the Republican base to the polls in large numbers.