On the Agenda: Ryan choice galvanizes one GOP constituency, but at the expense of another?
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According to some polling, that’s how few voters are undecided in the race for the presidency.
Well maybe, but the big declines in Mitt Romney’s approval ratings over the last month suggest that voters are a little more volatile than they’re telling pollsters.
But it is the 5 percent number that makes the Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate so fascinating.
The last time Republicans faced such a narrow spread of undecided was back in 2004 when George W. Bush squared off against John Kerry. Back then, master strategist Karl Rove decided it was simply too expensive to try and persuade such a small percentage of voters.
Instead, he pioneered techniques to find and motivate Republican leaning voters in traditionally Democratic areas. This so-called micro-targeting had been around since the 1990s, but Rove took it to a whole new level.
Now, add social media to the mix and Mr. Romney’s superior fundraising and a 5 percent contest is almost exclusively about campaign execution.
This brings us back Paul Ryan and the undecided 5 percent. He is about as sharp a contrast to Sarah Palin as you can get. Smart, articulate and perfectly capable of becoming President if something terrible happened and—most importantly—he has the charisma to galvanize Republican voters and the intellectual heft to do it without diverting the narrative away from Mr. Romney.
The real question is whether or not Ryan’s efforts to privatize a portion of social security and turn Medicare into a voucher program shake loose older voters who detested the ideas when first introduced. Until now, seniors have been some of Mr. Romney’s strongest supporters.
Many Americans lost their retirements in the stock market during the financial collapse and seniors’ high satisfaction with Medicare is well known. Mr. Romney’s gamble is that electrifying his base does not come at the cost of doubling or tripling the number undecided voters.
Increased undecideds would come from his side of the ledger. Once their confidence in a candidate is shaken, it is hard to win back.