Via Ace, who rightly points to Karl’s post here yesterday as anticipating how the GOP will run this Medicare offensive. Normally I think visual aids on the trail risk turning voters off because they’re too self-consciously didactic, but not this time. As Virginia Postrel says, wonking out might be just the ticket:
We’re in another anxious period, and voters are again primed to consider serious policy talk. To play up its team’s strengths as numbers guys, countering the self-congratulatory idea of Democrats as the party of intellect, the Romney campaign could make a gutsy move. It could deploy Ryan to talk to the public at length about the looming fiscal crisis, producing a series of long-form, Perot-style videos. Nowadays the Republicans wouldn’t even need to spend money for prime-time television (although that would certainly get attention). They could rely on YouTube.
One video could lay out the problems; another could explain the plan (which presumes the Romney campaign settles on one); another could address objections or answer questions sent in by viewers. One video might invite Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, or Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin, to explain their bipartisan budget plans, drawing contrasts among the different approaches and identifying common ground. For the finale of each video, or of the series, Romney could join his running mate, giving a top- of-the-ticket endorsement while maintaining his own thematic concentration on jobs…
The American public is in the appropriately desperate frame of mind for a serious policy discussion. The Ryan pick suggests that Romney might be willing to offer one. The alternative is three more months of sniping about tax returns and college transcripts (not to mention how dogs are treated) — attacks on the candidates’ identities rather than their ideas. The times demand better.
As if to prove her point, after today’s white board presser on the stump, reporters pestered Romney with questions about … his tax returns. But never mind that. Pulling out the white board does two things for him. One: It engages voters on policy on a level that rhetoric can’t. It’s essentially a visual cue for seriousness. If Romney’s committed to winning the Medicare debate, he needs to convince voters that the war of words with Obama isn’t election fingerpointing as usual but a real argument over hugely consequential policy differences. The better he is at conveying that, the more the public will resist liberal Mediscaring, I think. Two: It builds on the new identity Romney’s forged for himself as a policy wonk by picking Ryan as VP. I flagged that in my very first post after Ryan was announced: It felt like, until last week, Mitt’s campaign had been about nothing in particular except how bad Obama’s been on the economy. Now, suddenly, he’s an entitlement reformer par excellence, bold enough that he’s actually willing to bust out a de facto blackboard for his cause. I imagine undecided voters look at that and feel a frisson of technocratic competence, even if they’re not following along with every last number. That’s an essential feeling for them to have before they make the leap of replacing a sitting president with a challenger.
Speaking of boldness on Medicare, Paul Ryan’s headed to Florida’s biggest retirement community this weekend to make the pitch. Also attending: His Medicare-using, Florida-residing septuagenarian mother. Awesome. Exit quotation: “Hey Paul! Good luck! Kick ass!”