Two and half big questions remain about the potential downside of the Ryan pick:
- Will the addition of Ryan to the ticket make the election a fight over the House budget (particularly Medicare and tax rates for the wealthy) that Romney can’t win?
- Can Ryan help Romney appeal to the political center?
- Will questions be raised about Ryan’s readiness to be commander-in-chief? (That’s the half, since Democrats and the media have not focused on that issue, although a press vetting or Ryan error could bring it up.)
As a matter of pure execution, regardless of what one thinks of Ryan’s ideology, Boston gets major props for pulling off a very strong veep launch. Some of what has worked involved a bit of luck, but clearly, the Romney campaign meticulously gamed out how to best launch the pick:
- The choice and the timing of its announcement was a kept a secret up until the last minute, allowing the campaign to control the rollout.
- The announcement event was well staged.
- The optics of the Romneys and Ryans together are very good.
- The talking points intended to smooth over rough spots (such as policy disagreements between the top and bottom of the ticket) were carefully written in advance.
- Boston had a thought-out pushback on the Medicare issue – raising ObamaCare’s Medicare cuts – and made sure all surrogates were ready to make the same case.
- The campaign was correctly confident that the last two days of the Olympics wouldn’t be a barrier to getting major coverage for the pick.
- The timing allowed for the requisite “60 Minutes” interview, insuring a big and valuable audience.
- They also put in place the requisite People magazine hit.
- They had ready to go an experienced, strong team of managers and communicators to manage the Ryan process.
- They tick tocked the selection process for the media in a way that produced news stories that were 98% on message for Team Romney.
- They rapidly distributed favorable quotes from previous Romney skeptics expressing jubilation over the choice.
- They made sure Ryan had a well-written first speech.
- Ryan was well-prepared and has capably conveyed an excellent balance between eager teammate/junior partner and tough player.
- They tweeted out endearing candid photos from the trail.
- They had their allies aggressively tweet positively about Ryan while pushing back hard on the Democrats’ attacks.
- They were privately very gracious and sincerely regretful to those not selected, minimizing any sour grapes story lines or interviews from the Tim Pawlentys of the world.
- They isolated the interesting and favorable biographical aspects of the Ryan family and made sure they were delivered to the media.
- They devised a short-term schedule for the two candidates together and then separately that smartly makes the most of their current velocity.
- They used the pick to define and send signals about Romney, emphasizing the “bold” meme.
- They anticipated that the announcement and addition of Ryan would produce much bigger crowds for their events and they handled the logistics of the swell without too many hitches.
The result of all that technical planning and success is that Romney is a more energized and focused stump performer today than he was just four days ago. The weekend’s major events have gone well and that is reflected in the candidate’s demeanor. His performance in the “60 Minutes” interview was also better than usual, apparently thanks to having his partner by his side.
Again, to be clear: this is not an endorsement of Ryan or a prediction that the pick will ultimately be a net positive. But Boston gets credit for executing a process that can go wrong in a million ways — and, so far, has been smooth sailing.