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Paul Ryan: Which campaign gets the bigger boost?

Both Democrats and conservative Republicans are seeing Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as a potential game-changer for their team. But only one can win.

By Staff writer / August 13, 2012

Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin reacts to audience applause during a campaign event at the Waukesha county expo center, Sunday, Aug. 12, in Waukesha, Wis.

Mary Altaffer/AP

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Washington

On one point, partisans on both sides agree: Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate has the potential to be a game-changer.

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For Mr. Romney, Congressman Ryan of Wisconsin has given his presidential campaign energy and focus. The “Ryan plan,” the House Budget chairman’s proposed tax cuts, spending cuts, and dramatic rethink of entitlements, is now at the center of debate.

The immediate reaction of conservatives, who were skeptical of the former governor of Massachusetts, was excitement, and a feeling they could begin to trust Romney.

Democrats are equally thrilled about the choice of Ryan, in part for the same reason. His detailed plan, they say, gives them a club with which to beat the Romney-Ryan ticket about the head, and scare voters – especially seniors in key swing states like Florida and Ohio.

Never mind that Ryan’s proposals for Medicare and Social Security would not affect those at or near retirement. As Romney arrived in Florida Monday morning to campaign, the Obama campaign released a web video featuring older Floridians expressing alarm over cuts to Medicare under the “Romney-Ryan plan.”  

Both sides could be right: Ryan could be a game-changer in a race that, pre-Ryan, showed President Obama with a slight edge in polls. The question is, for which side? Does it turn the tide toward Romney, or shift it more fully toward Mr. Obama?

The outcome, analysts say, could depend on which side is able to define Ryan and his plan – neither the man nor the proposal is well-known by most Americans – in the next few weeks.

The selection of Ryan is “both an opportunity and a danger for the Romney campaign, and an opportunity for the Obama campaign,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The president starts out ahead, he says, and therefore “the danger for him is certainly there, but less immediate and overt.”

If the 2012 race turns into a “base election” – that is, with an electorate that consists mostly of loyal and “leaning” Democrats and Republicans, but not a lot of people who are newly inspired to vote, as in 2008 – then the addition of Ryan has the potential to tip the balance for Romney.

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