Mitt Romney's biggest challenge in the presidential campaign for so far has been likeability - he comes across as cold, insincere (look at the fake smile above), and disconnected from the harsh reality with which most Americans live. Many commentators have referred to it as the empathy gap.
With his announcement Friday night of congressman Paul Ryan (WI) as his Vice-Presidential running mate, Romney has given up on empathy it would seem, preferring instead to gamble that his wealthy backers will support his choice with enough Super PAC money to generate a barrage of misinformation that will scare Americans into fearing Obama enough to choose the white capitalists over the black "socialist."
As a progressive who values compassion as a political stance (and I am not a Democrat), I see this is almost the perfect pick to guarantee Obama's re-election. I have a lot of issues with Obama (his health care plan sold out the middle class to provide coverage to the poorest Americans; his use of drone attacks is not only illegal but morally problematic; his leadership style is to focused on consensus and not enough on getting the best legislation; the list could go on and on), but his understanding of how most of America is struggling is not one of those problems.
Obama's work as a community organizer put him at the center of poverty in large cities, giving him an understanding that Romney lacks completely. Obama values the one-on-one connection with individuals that seems to make Romney uncomfortable.
So what does Romney do to combat these challenges? He chooses Paul Ryan, the most divisive high-profile Republican congressman in the country, a man who is beloved by the racist Tea Party crowd, who is owned by Big Oil, who is vehemently opposed to gay marriage (or even gay rights), who is a virulent denier of climate science (and all other forms of science), who has one of the worst environmental voting records in the House, and worst of all, is pushing a budget plan that escalates tax cuts for the wealthy whilemassively cutting government programs such as social security, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, student loans and other social programs.
Response from the Left has been what one would expect:
Think Progress: Meet Paul Ryan: Climate Denier, Conspiracy Theorist, Koch Acolyte
Mother Jones: With Paul Ryan, Romney Makes the VP Pick Obama Wanted
The Daily Beast: Romney-Ryan: The Rich Voter's Dream Ticket
Daily Kos: Introducing the Committee to End Medicare: Romney-Ryan 2012
The Right seems to be pleased to have a man Romney describes as a “person of great steadiness” and someone who “combines a profound sense of responsibility…with unbounded optimism,” and as the “intellectual leader of the Republican party.”
Obama's campaign team must be doing the "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" Dance.