By John Paul Rollert , Bloomberg News
GovernorÂ Chris ChristieÂ ofÂ New JerseyÂ has been viewed as the Republicansâ€™ most in-your-face salesman, whipping up crowds with a hard sell. RepresentativeÂ Paul Ryan, the partyâ€™s vice-presidential candidate, is supposed to be the earnest, non-flashy policy wonk.
Yet this dichotomy of substance versus style misses the point: Ryan is the most relentless salesman in theÂ Republican Party. A ubiquitous presence on television, he has an easy smile, an ingratiating manner and a relentlessly upbeat air. Compared with his no-compromise colleagues, he acts less like a drill sergeant and more like a devoted student ofÂ Dale Carnegie.
This is a shrewd choice on Ryanâ€™s part, but it may also reflect what he is selling. Say what you will about the wisdom of changing the fundamental guarantees of entitlements or making dramatic cuts to social programs — these arenâ€™t the type of goods that sell themselves.
Ryan first came to prominence after the 2004 election when he promoted an ambitious plan to privatizeÂ Social Security. It was regarded as too radical byÂ George W. Bushâ€™s administration, which pushed a more modest plan that proved such a dud that the president later regretted making it a priority.
In 2007, Ryanâ€™s first budget proposal enjoyed a similar reception. The cuts he proposed were considered so aggressive that 40 members of his own party voted against it. A year later, he introduced a revised proposal. It fared little better. Only eight co-sponsors signed on.
Since then, Ryan has worked tirelessly to sell his vision to congressional colleagues, not without success. His 2011 â€œPath to Prosperityâ€ budget won the support of almost every House Republican, even though, as Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said of the proposal, â€œAt 37 footnotes, it might be theÂ most annotatedÂ suicide note in history.â€
While he admired the congressmanâ€™s chutzpah, Krauthammerâ€™s point was well-founded. A few weeks later, DemocratÂ Kathy HochulÂ won an off-year election inÂ New Yorkâ€™s 26th Congressional District by running against Ryanâ€™s Medicare plan. The loss was especially cruel for Ryan because the area had been represented in the 1970s and 1980s by his mentor,Â Jack Kemp,Â in what was then the 31st District.
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