John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Paul Ryan – A Missed Opportunity?

The first thing I thought of when I Googled news of Paul Ryan being Mitt Romney’s choice for VP was “He looks like Romney’s Mini Me.” I thought I’d start off my post with this observation but decided to Google “Paul Ryan and Mini Me” to make sure no one else had used it already. Apparently, Mitt Romney had. Reportedly, Mitt when informing Ryan of his choice said, “Mini Me, you complete me.” Which is an even funnier than what I was going to say using the Mini Me line. So, I’ll just leave it at that. I can’t improve on Mitt’s own words. Just read them and pretend like Mitt was joking. Hilarious!!

Things like that seem to happen to Mitt a lot. He intends for things to be taken one way, and they end up being taken the other, more obvious way. It’s an endearing quality because Mitt isn’t doing it as an act. It’s sweet. It humanizes him. Really.

I suspect with his VP choice  Mitt was trying to emulate the most successful VP pick in modern presidential campaigns: Bill Clinton’s choice of Al Gore. It was a surprising and bold move –and like Mitt done by a challenger running against an incumbent president. It created momentum because it reinforced Clinton’s personal brand (DLC democrat) and “just worked” despite politically logical reasons to go a different way. Clinton, of course, didn’t say to Al, “Mini Me, you complete me.” And the pair went on to win the presidency and vice-presidency and govern for 8 years.

I think Mitt was trying for this same formula but, again, shanked it. Sure, Ryan is similar to Romney but not in a way that creates electoral dynamism. He comes off more like Mitt’s younger brother who majored in economics instead of finance as opposed to a fun and synergistic compliment to Mitt.  But there are those who could have fit that bill. In my opinion the obvious selection for Mitt’s VP who could have provided the same electoral dynamism we saw in 1996, is obvious. Bill Paxton, star of HBO’s Big Love.

Paxton, like Romney, is an outsider and Mormon. He’s a very successful no-nonsense businessman whose small business expertise could temper Romney’s narrow business image as more of a financier than everyday American businessperson, like Paxton’s character. Paxton also has cross-over appeal to democrats—both male and female. When polled, democratic males 18-85 answered “D” by an overwhelming majority to the question, “Which one of Bill Paxton’s wive’s is the hottest? A) Barb, B) Nicki, C) Margi or D) All of them? And another overwhelming majority of democratic males answered “yes,” to the follow up poll question, “If a republican vice presidential candidate could juggle three hotties and still pay all the bills, would you be more likely to vote for that ticket?”

Conversely, female voters from both parties polled about Paxton scored him high on “security issues,” “pro-life,” “immigration,” “family values” and “ideal second husband” (interestingly, polling data showed the fact he’d have to be shared with three other women can be a plus for a second husband). And both male and female voters from both parties felt Paxton’s ability to maneuver the temperamental  ingénue Margi was a good indication he could work with House of Representatives. A similar percentage believed having managed to keep the attractive but matronly Barb happy all these years showed Paxton could deal adeptly with Sen Mitch McConnell’s dryly sensible and scolding leadership style. And the fact that Paxton seemed to keep Nicki (Chloë Sevigny) happy as a sister-wife had no political significance according the polling,  but almost all polled considered it “friggin’ amazing.”

Other pluses of a Paxton choice for veep is that he has a casual yet connected air about him to contrast with what some consider Romney’s uptight remoteness. Everyone knows Utah (where Big Love is set) is the country’s most conservative state. So Paxton could simultaneously burnish Romney’s conservative bona fides while also eating into democrats Hollywood’s fundraising edge.

Of course, polygamy has been outlawed by the Morman faith and it’s supposed to be politically incorrect (even taboo) to ever mention it was part of the Mormon faith tradition. But in this context it is a clear political plus. I mean, c’mom,  let’s be serious. Does anyone believe Joe Biden is suave enough to handle 3 wives?! In the upcoming Centre College debate, Paxton wouldn’t even have to be very knowledgeable about policy. He could merely try to convince voters that Mitt Romney really is a lot like his character in Big Love and it would be a blowout of Biden. An ad running before the debate with each of the sister-wives starting into the camera saying, “Joe Biden, I know Bill Hendrickson (Paxton’s character in Big Love), Bill Hendrickson is a husband of mine. Mr Biden, you are no Bill Hendrickson” would be a potential knock-out punch.  A republican Lloyd Bentsen moment on steroids –and Viagra. Even better it would benefit the presidential candidate, Romney, even more than the vice-presidential candidate.

And here’s the beauty part. Romney, when notifying Paxton of his choice could still have said, “Mini Me, you complete me.” And Paxton is so cool that everyone would have taken it as a hilarious insider Hollywood joke. Romney would have realized that he stumbled into a brilliant comment that was genuinely funny. And started laughing himself at how inadvertently hysterical he was. And if all that happened standing on stage next to Bill Paxton, it would have been Mitt Romney’s finest, funnest and most human moment in the campaign. And in an odd way, would have perhaps been Mitt’s most “presidential” moment of the campaign yet.

Heck, even conservatives would have to admit they kinda liked Romney on that night.


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