Talk about startling poll numbers: a recent survey by the Pew Research Center found more people interested in the national Republican Party’s platform, approved Tuesday, than the upcoming acceptance speeches of presidential nominee Mitt Romney and vice presidential pick Paul Ryan.
While 52 percent were “very or somewhat" interested in the platform, only 46 percent were curious about the Ryan appearance in Tampa, and just 44 percent were keyed up for Romney’s talk. The poll was conducted Aug. 23-26 among 1,010 adults nationwide.
It’s my sense that in the United States, interest in party platforms usually rivals interest in professional lacrosse, so there’s clearly something going on here. And more people want to hear Ryan talk than Romney? I don’t know whether Romney has the ability to manifest hurt feelings, but if he does, this would be the time we’d see them.
These phenomena are linked.
Many in the Republican base wanted Ryan, the congressman from Wisconsin, to run for president. His “Path to Prosperity,” a blueprint for handling the budget and entitlements, has made him the go-to guy for fiscal conservatives, and his social views are right-wingtacular.
And these same folks who wanted Ryan to throw his hat in the ring were never excited about Romney. Ever. Not excited on a train. Not excited on a plane. They do not like this man named Mitt. They nearly had a hissy fit.
Almost no one in the Republican Party was excited about Romney, which explains the momentary surges of Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. Before there was “anyone but Obama,” there was the intra-party version: Anybody but Mitt; singing pizza moguls and people who can’t remember which federal agencies they want to eliminate encouraged to apply.
And now, to go along with the love from the little people in the Republican Party (and the big people, too), Ryan has a platform perfect for his presidential run. But -- and it’s important to remember this for those playing along at home -- there is no Ryan presidential run.
On abortion, Ryan and the party platform agree: Even if you’re an 11-year-old girl and you’re violently raped by your father, no abortion for you. That’s intellectually defensible, if you believe abortion is murder, but it’s not the stance of Romney, who believes in exceptions to abortion bans. Ryan says he’ll go along with Romney’s take.
But the party they’re representing doesn’t.
This is also an issue in the realm of Medicare, where Ryan proposed a voucher program that would pay some, but possibly not all, of seniors’ premiums. The platform agrees wholeheartedly. The nominee? He’s said he thinks Ryan’s plan is smart, but he has not come out in favor of it. He will, eventually, have to pick frying pan or fire on this issue.
The platform is controversial in lots of other areas too. On gun rights, it opposes limits on ammunition clip and magazine sizes and the reinstatement of an assault weapons ban, positions that directly contradict at least one version of Romney’s views on the subject.
The platform also demands that family planning for teens be replaced by teaching these crazy kids that abstinence is the only way, supports making English the official national language, strips federal funding from universities that offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, and calls for national voter ID laws.
And then there’s the plank that states Romney, if elected, must stop Obamacare on Day 1. Not Day 2. No dillydallying. Romney has been vocal in his opposition to Obamacare, but he hasn’t gotten past his inventing ObamaMassachusacare, and he never will.
But in the disagreement between the platform and the candidate, Medicare and abortion are the big ifs. The big question is just who’s leading the party, and what he’ll try to do if elected.
The poll numbers suggest to me that the base wishes the answers were A) Paul Ryan and B) Implement his ideals.
Pictured above: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right, and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan wave to supporters in Norfolk, Va. (Aug. 11, 2012)