Mitt Romney Rolls the Dice to Paul Ryan in High-Stakes Vice Presidential Gamble

Paul Ryan is the latest second-banana to enter a very interesting American pantheon.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan: The new BFFs look pretty comfortable together. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Aug 12, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

So the Republican Vice Presidential cat is out of the bag now that Mitt Romney has announced Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will be his running mate. It definitely felt like the media had been chomping at the bit waiting for this news and now they’re off and running.

First up is a focus on how well known Ryan is to the public. The Huffington Post reported that, “Polls show that Paul Ryan . . . was still unknown to a majority of Americans.” And an article in The Washington Post poked a bit of fun at Ryan’s obscurity factor noting, “A conservative rock star in the marbled halls of Congress, Paul Ryan—his ideas, his politics, his very name—was just barely beginning to register at the Spot Cafe off State Road 16 here [in St. Augustine, Florida] Sunday.”

“Rick Paul, said one diner, was a brilliant vice presidential choice. Mike Ryan, said another, would surely boost Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and help ‘save the country.’ At last, said Jim Smith, 74, Romney made a decision that solidifies his conservative credentials. ‘Paul—from Kentucky?’ Smith said, referring to the junior Kentucky senator, Rand Paul. ‘Definitely a good move. I didn’t support Romney in the primary, but I will now with Paul in there.’ And so it went Sunday in the crucial swing state of Florida.”

MORE: Who Will Make the Republican Convention A-List?

Now, while that’s all kind of amusing, obscurity can change overnight. In 2008, everyone said, “Sarah, who?” But there’s probably not a sole around who didn’t learn a lot about the former governor of Alaska in a very short period of time.

How important is a party’s vice presidential choice? From the foreign perspective, The Telegraph weighed in over the weekend on some of the people we've nominated in the past: “Good: Lyndon Johnson: John F. Kennedy was wary of bringing the blustering Senate leader onto the ticket, anxious not to be overshadowed by Johnson's Texas-sized ego. But while the two men had a complicated relationship, Johnson helped deliver most of the South and went on to become one of the most important presidents of the 20th century—passing sweeping civil rights reforms while sharply escalating the Vietnam War . . . George H.W. Bush: Ronald Reagan needed no help outshining his opponent, Jimmy Carter, but he did need governing experience to balance his own glitzy Hollywood image. The older Bush did just that.”

The bad choices included Dan Quayle and Thomas Eagleton, who was dumped by George McGovern when it emerged that he had undergone electroshock therapy for depression.

NPR also said that Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush were excellent choices, along with Dick Cheney (“brought along congressional, Cabinet and foreign policy experience—everything that George W. Bush lacked”), Walter Mondale (“in picking the widely respected Walter Mondale as his running mate, [Carter] got someone who came to the table with 10 years experience in the Senate”), Al Gore, and Joe Biden. Poor Thomas Eagleton got their nod as “the most disastrous VP pick.”

Whether Paul Ryan ends up being a brilliant choice, a bad one, or somewhere in between will be judged by history—and whether or not he and Romney win in November.

But he’s unlikely to go down as the worst choice ever. That honor seems to belong the Aaron Burr. The Telegraph noted, “Thomas Jefferson's running mate was America’s third vice president and remains one of its most notorious. During his last year in office he killed Alexander Hamilton, the former treasury secretary, in an illegal duel. He escaped conviction but a disgusted Jefferson dropped him from the ticket. Burr went into exile in the West where in 1807 he was accused of raising an army to overthrow the US government.”

How do you feel about Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan? Do you think the choice of the vice presidential nominee affects people’s vote?

Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence |

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