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"An Extreme Choice" -- What Two of Wisconsin's Leading Progressive Journalists Think About Mitt Romney's Pick of Paul Ryan

"He’s to the right of both President Bushes. I think he’s to the right of Dick Cheney," says Matthew Rothschild of the Progressive Magazine.

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Yeah, you’re right, Amy. I mean, Wisconsin is this odd, kind of schizophrenic place. It was the home of Fighting Bob La Follette, the founder of  The Progressivemagazine and leader of the Progressive movement. And also, it’s also home of Joe McCarthy, the terrible red-baiting senator from Wisconsin in the 1950s. And so, you had that terrible split. And we saw that split last year and up to this year with the recall of Scott Walker, where the state is virtually 50-50 between people who identify with the Republicans and people who identify with progressives. And that’s a battle that’s not unique to Wisconsin. I think it’s all over the country, but it’s especially in focus here in Wisconsin, and you can feel the polarization almost every day.

AMY GOODMAN: And, John Nichols, the triumvirate now in Wisconsin, you have Reince Priebus, who is the head of the Republican National Committee, you have Governor Scott Walker, who won his recall—I was watching him yesterday on television saying that his major victory in the recall was a real sort of green light for Ryan to be chosen, because it shows the direction people want to go in this country. The three of them are very similar, even look alike.

JOHN NICHOLS: They do a little bit. There’s a different height, different heights. Ryan is quite tall and, frankly, very athletic, much more so than the governor or Reince Priebus—and frankly has better hair. But the funny thing is that Priebus is a constituent of Ryan’s. Priebus is from Kenosha. Scott Walker is from Wauwatosa, which is just on the edge of Ryan’s district. So they’re not just from—they’re not just from Wisconsin; they’re actually from a corner of Wisconsin.

And something that we’re talking about here, there’s a subtlety to this. One of the reasons they’ve all risen is because Wisconsin is such a divided state, because it is a real battleground. Sometimes our presidential race is being decided by about 10,000 votes, both in 2000 and 2004. Republicans in Wisconsin had to get good at retail politics. They had to learn how to go out and campaign and how to spin these economic messages in effective ways. And, you know, listen, one of the things—be cautious about Paul Ryan. We can talk about Ayn Rand. We can talk about the Medicare, Medicaid, some policies that are really deeply unsettling to people. But understand also, this guy is a retail politician. He is—he does know how to work a crowd, to give a speech, much better than Mitt Romney. So, while Romney went extreme ideologically, he also added somebody to his ticket who’s frankly a much better communicator and, coming out of that Wisconsin battleground, knows how to stir it up, how to fight in places that are not necessarily easy Republican turf.

So this is—this is not necessarily a foolish choice by Romney, although, again, it is an extreme choice. And it does define the national Republican Party toward a place where the Wisconsin Republican Party is, which is very anti-labor, willing to make deep cuts in education, public services, and, frankly, very combative on issues like voter ID and a host of other things that really go to the core question of how successful and how functional our democracy will be.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Rothschild, the issue of Social Security. I mean, Mitt Romney has been somewhat careful, never coming out with a plan, yet here you have Paul Ryan, who is a man with a plan, a very clear plan, and it has to do with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. Social Security, he’s taken on from the beginning. Can you explain Congressmember, now vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan’s plans for Social Security?

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