Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 20, 2012

Ryan pick puts presidential race in focus

— Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate has sparked renewed interest in the 2012 campaign.

At least on the political fringes. The ideological right views Ryan as one of their own, especially when it comes to the idea of hacking away at taxes and federal spending.

And the ideological left sees him as the architect of a society where the elites would have absolute power and wealth would be completely controlled by the favored few. In this society, the poor and unfortunate would be left to fend for themselves.

In other words, Ryan’s selection serves to continue the polarization of American politics. We are devolving into a Third-World political culture, where the pluralism and compromise of the center is drowned out by the gnashing of teeth on the extremes.

Meanwhile, political pundits had to make the transformation from who Romney would pick to why he picked Ryan. From the left and right, you again hear that the choice suggests Romney wants to run on the tough conservative fiscal principles that Ryan espouses.

But this talk ignores the real reason vice presidents are selected: To bring something to the ticket. And in this case, Romney’s decision reflects the fact that many conservative Republicans don’t trust him. Ryan is an olive branch of sorts to the GOP base, a wink and a nod that Romney really is one of them.

Romney will campaign on his own platform, not Ryan’s. The last thing any presidential candidate wants is a running mate who overshadows him. If that happens, voters start wondering why the ticket isn’t reversed, and suddenly, the election is lost.

Traditionally, presidential candidates move toward the center as the general election approaches and they try to broaden their support. But the hardened attitudes in modern American politics may prevent that from happening. That’s particularly true with Romney, who may have to run on Ryan’s record, even if he doesn’t necessarily want to.

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