As the conservative community rightfully rejoices with Paul Ryan’s selection, the politics of the rollout deserve some attention. Amazingly, Romney kept the choice, and the timing of the choice, secret until late Friday night, when his campaign announced via Twitter and to the press of the selection early the next morning. Minutes later word of the selection leaked, setting the stage for the early-morning introduction of the Wisconsin congressman.
Prognosticators had been sure that Romney would wait until the Olympics were over, as conventional wisdom suggests an implicit political rule that major campaign moves not interfere with the quadrennial competition. Romney’s own personal history as an Olympic planner reinforced this expected deference. Alas, the perfect smokescreen!
Ironically, this rule didn’t carry much weight for President Obama either; he formally invited Joe Biden aboard on the same last Saturday morning of the Olympics, on August 23, 2008. So Saturday mornings also aren’t new. Why such a dead time of the week, many wonder?
The answer is actually fairly discernible. With a two-day respite for the major players in the mainstream media, the Romney campaign can set the tone and allow its base to get excited without distraction from major players in the press corp. It can also help the candidate himself, along with his family, settle in to his new reality before the teeth of the media begin to clamp down. As American families and friends enjoy a summer weekend, talk of the selection will pervade barbeques, fairgrounds, and other community events across the nation -- prompting curiosity and interest at a ground level.
The early surprise also may have caught the Democratic opposition flat-footed. While the president’s reelection team was quick to assail Ryan’s budget proposals (and impressively launching a website within minutes of the introduction detailing the same), a full and sustained barrage can only commence once the workweek begins. The successful coordination is a far cry from the last time a presidential nominee selected a midwestern lawmaker as his running mate.
On Wednesday August 17, 1988, Dan Quayle stepped into the maelstrom unprepared for the scrutiny. No doubt Quayle was a flawed candidate, without a following in the conservative community, let alone any national name identification. The Bush team did him no favors though when they introduced him in a New Orleans plaza during the GOP convention. The national news media got its first glimpse of the Indiana Senator and cameras focused on the boyish Quayle excitedly jabbing George Bush on the shoulder while yelling at the crowd, “Let’s go get ‘em.” Some in the news media likened him to a cheerleader -- or to a game show contestant who just won an Oldsmobile.
Quayle was unready for the scrutiny and the public was equally unprepared (particularly Republicans who themselves felt ambushed by the choice; Senators Bob Dole, Howard Baker and Congressman Jack Kemp were thought to be the front-runners for the selection). Congressman Ryan, on the other hand, is a known entity, properly vetted in Republican circles and capable of sparring on a national stage and projecting conservative ideals.
There is no certainty whether the Ryan choice will prove successful. There can be little doubt, however, that the rollout was well executed and befitting a campaign driven by preparedness and discipline.