Mitt Romney's running-mate revelation has brought the presidential race into sharper focus.
Mitt Romney's running-mate revelation has brought the presidential race into sharper focus. During a campaign event Saturday, Romney announced he had picked Paul Ryan to fill the No. 2 slot on the GOP ticket. The news quickly energized the conservative base, but as I watched the breaking-news coverage, I couldn't help but feel a sense of déjà vu. Here we have a Republican presidential candidate who has failed to generate much excitement; in fact, for many voters in his own party, the best reason they can cite for supporting him is that "he is not (President Barack) Obama." In order to bridge the enthusiasm gap, the candidate chooses a very conservative rising star in the tea party movement as a running mate. Sound familiar? Of course, based on how that scenario turned out for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008, I find it somewhat surprising Romney took such a risky move. Conservatives were going to vote for him regardless of who he chose, just as liberals will break for Obama. So the 2012 presidential election is expected to hinge on moderate and independent voters. And just as with Palin, Ryan's uber-conservative views will drive those all-important voters away in droves. Granted, by all accounts, Ryan is more charming and likeable than Palin. But the presidential race isn't a popularity contest, and Ryan's political ideology will prove just as polarizing as Palin's did. Take, for instance, the 42-year-old congressman's "draconian" deficit-reduction plan. The proposal, which made Ryan a household name, would effectively end Medicare, instead giving senior citizens vouchers to be used toward private insurance. Independent budget analysts say that would likely translate into higher out-of-pocket costs for retirees - to the tune of thousands of dollars more a year. Ryan's plan also called for Medicaid to be converted into a block grant program, which would "shift costs and risk to states," according to a letter signed by 17 Democratic governors and sent to Congress. Perhaps the most mind-boggling portion of his proposal, however, revolved around how that saved money would be spent: to lower the top tax rate by 25 percent and end deductions. It's no wonder Romney is already trying to distance himself from Ryan's budget plan. Ryan is also a leading force behind the GOP's 'war on women,' even going so far as to co-sponsor legislation that would grant full personhood rights to fetuses beginning at the moment of fertilization. He also cosponsored a bill that could ban in-vitro fertilization. It would also prohibit many forms of birth control, including the pill. In addition, he has voted in favor of legislation defunding Planned Parenthood clinics around the country four times - despite the fact that 1 in 5 women in the U.S. has relied on health services provided by Planned Parenthood. Ryan also supported the elimination of the Title X family-planning program, which provides cancer screenings and mammograms to low-income patients. "Rep. Paul Ryan's extreme anti-choice record shows just how serious a threat Mitt Romney's presidency would be for women," Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. "He has cast 59 votes on reproductive rights while in Congress, and not one has been pro-choice. "Rep. Ryan has also repeatedly voted to defund family-planning programs and supported the 'Let Women Die Bill,' which would allow hospitals to refuse to provide a woman emergency, life-saving abortion care, even if she could die without it. It comes as no surprise that Romney would choose a like-minded running mate who is just as out of touch with our nation's values and priorities as he is. The Romney-Ryan ticket is dangerous to women's health," said Keenan. Playing politics with women's health issues is unacceptable. And, as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure leadership recently learned, it's also likely to land one in the unemployment line. Given how many people Romney was responsible for laying off during his time at Bain Capital, it seems like the perfect place to send him in November. (City editor Amy Gehrt writes for The Pekin Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)