Skip the Ryan Hype: Romney’s Campaign Is In Makeover Mode
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Can we stop fretting for a moment about how scary Republican Paul Ryan would be as vice president (very) to note that the Romney campaign had been flailing in recent weeks, forcing Mitt to name his veep early to divert attention, and ever since, GOP media outlets have been feverishly propagandizing Ryan as a gamechanger.
There has been all kinds of predictable hyperventilating, like this fawning Daily Beast piece saying that Ryan is the first “member of Generation X” to be on a national ticket. People of a certain age—older than Gen Xers—might remember the same thing was once said about Bill Clinton’s pick of Al Gore (who once was young and thin).
The Right has been seizing upon every tidbit of arguable information not only to make Ryan into a political superhero, but also to say that he is attracting support of the one constituency that was truly excited by Obama in 2008—young people ages 18-29. That assertion was bouyed by a national poll done by John Zobgy after the announcement, where for the first time Romney had more than 40 percent of this key demographic.
The Right was all abuzz about a so-called “ Ryan effect,” especially among young voters. When asked by the right-wing Washington Examiner, where Zogby’s analyses run as a regular feature, he speculated, saying, “more younger voters are becoming libertarian, distrustful of current elected officials and worried that they are going to get stuck with the nation’s looming fiscal bill.”
That reply—and Zogby’s history of finding things in polls that both please and displease Ds and Rs—has raised eyebrows in progressive circles. Even some conservatives cautiously embraced the claim, saying, “Almost one third of voters in this age group have no idea what Ryan’s ideas are, so they can hardly be excited about how new they are.”
AlterNet spoke to Zogby on Thursday. He said his poll was predictably being used by the GOP and its allies to reinforce their partisan messaging; that it was a single poll—a snapshot in time and not yet a trend -- but that yes, as everyone knows, young voters, like many segments of Obama’s winning coalition, feel differently in 2012.
We need to remember how and why polls are useful—as well as propaganda tools. But the bigger picture that is getting lost in the rapid reactions and to-and-fro over Ryan is that the Romney campaign is now handling its first big crisis. It was losing. It is going through a political makeover. And right-wing media is playing its part to cover up.
“In terms of young people, that was not anything that I would have led with—because my rule is not to lead with subgroups,” Zogby said, explaining what the weekend poll found and didn’t find. “You know, 1,117 voters were polled. The number of young people was in the vicinity of 200. You have a margin of error of around 6 percent there. However, it [the Romney bump] certainly was noticeable and worthy of discussion, only because we have seen Obama’s numbers going up and down among young voters. But prior to this, I’ve never seen Romney’s numbers go above 31 or 32 percent. He’s normally in the 20s… Is it an anomaly? I don’t know. One poll doesn’t make a trend. But like the old child’s game 'made-you-look,' it made me look. Frankly, both sides should look.”
Zogby has been one of the few pollsters tracking young people in 2012. He says he is personally a Democrat, but professionally fiercely independent—which makes him a target of partisan sniping from both sides depending what his polls point out.