It is conventional wisdom that a vice-presidential candidate is chosen with the intention of “adding something” to the presidential ticket. For example, if a candidate didn’t spend much time abroad, he should pick someone with solid credentials on the international stage. This was the case with Mr. Obama and his VP Joe Biden four years ago.
I disagree with this strategy as it overestimates the impact of a running mate. Dick Morris, a famous American political consultant, says that a vice presidential nominee should be used to re-enforce the main message of the candidate. In 1992 for example, Clinton and Al Gore shared many of the same political values. Both stood for “change instead of more of the same” and both where young “New Democrats” from the South with moderate opinions and a strong focus on the economy.
So far, Mitt Romney doesn’t have much of a message so there is not much that a vice presidential candidate could re-enforce. Ironically, Paul Ryan’s budget plan helps to re-enforce Mitt Romney’s weaknesses, namely that he is a cold capitalist who doesn’t care much about the middle class and fails to understand average people. As Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect noted, Mitt Romney needs to win about 60% of the white vote in order to win the White House. Winning the white vote means winning the senior citizen vote. I doubt that Ryan’s plan to turn medicare into a voucher system will win much votes in that category.
Romney chose Ryan for one main reason: Ryan is a star with the republican right and Romney hopes to excite and bind the conservative base with this choice. The “Tea-Party-Segment” of the party showed a great lack of trust in Romney so far and suspected him of turning liberal and moderate as soon as he would take his oath of office. Conservatives take Ryan’s name on the ticket as a guarantee for their ideals to live on, should Romney indeed be elected President in November. To me, however, the Republican base is enthusiastic enough about beating Obama. There is no need to use the vice presidential nominee to fire them up.