From “How Obama Created the Greatest Threat to His Presidency,” Ezra Klein, Bloomberg:
“Here’s the weird thing about Paul Ryan being named to the Republican presidential ticket: It’s all part of Barack Obama’s campaign plan — a plan that’s working better than his strategists could have hoped. It could also backfire more disastrously than they have ever imagined.
“Unfortunately for them [the Obama team], Ryan’s profile wasn’t rising fast enough. So Obama did something very unusual. Typically, sitting presidents ignore doomed proposals from the minority party. But on April 13, 2011, with Ryan sitting in the audience, Obama delivered a searing speech — perhaps the toughest of his presidency to that point — on the subject of Ryan’s budget. He said it would mean an America that ‘would be fundamentally different than what we’ve known throughout our history.’ He called it ‘a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic.’
“The gambit largely worked. The news media devoted more coverage to Ryan’s budget and, perhaps more important, Republicans furiously rallied around Ryan. By pitting his presidency against Ryan and his budget, Obama helped make Ryan the de facto leader of the Republican Party.
“As Mitt Romney emerged as the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee, the Obama administration began calling Ryan’s budget the “Romney-Ryan budget.” Priorities USA, the Obama-affiliated super-PAC, dedicated its first ad to tying Romney to Ryan. ‘Mitt Romney says he’s on the same page as Paul Ryan, who wrote the plan to essentially end Medicare,’ the ad’s narrator warned.
“The Obama team never could have predicted that its efforts would help vault Ryan into the nomination for vice president. But Ryan is a remarkably talented politician — so good, in fact, that he managed to convince Romney and the Republican Party that the argument the Obama administration pursued so aggressively is actually an argument that Republicans will win.
“Putting the Ryan budget at the center of the 2012 election has the tactical benefit of forcing Republicans to defend an unpopular proposal; more important, it has the long-term strategic benefit of potentially discrediting the Ryan budget as a political document. Prior to Ryan joining the ticket, a Romney loss seemed likely to strengthen the Republican Party’s conservative wing, because the defeat would be blamed on Romney’s moderate past. Now, if the Romney-Ryan ticket loses, it will vindicate skeptics of the party’s rightward shift, potentially strengthening the party’s moderates. That could produce a more cooperative opposition for Obama to work with in a second term.
“But if Obama loses, Republicans will have won the presidency with a mandate to enact a deeply conservative agenda. Left to his own devices, Romney might have been a relatively pragmatic and cautious president. Instead, the Obama administration’s three-year effort to enshrine the Ryan budget at the heart of the Republican Party would prove to have been a crucial push toward enacting that budget into law.” Emphasis added.
I believe Obama will win, but GOP moderates (who are they, where are they?) still won’t be strengthened, that the conservatives will be as intransigent as ever.