Have we ever seen two aligned camps within the conservative movement view the same event so differently? The far-right press is convinced the selection of Paul Ryan as VP is the boost Mitt Romney desperately needs, while GOP operatives, who try to win campaigns for a living, fret Ryan just doomed any chance Romney had of capturing the White House and will hurt Republican candidates nationwide.
Fox News got the vice presidential pick it wanted; the one Rupert Murdoch all but demanded Romney make. But the cheers of exultation that were heard within the right-wing media in the wake of the Ryan pick, as pundits toasted him as a true movement believer, have been met with equally emotional groans from Republican operatives who see Ryan as an unnecessary electoral anchor around the neck of GOP candidates who must now talk about Ryan's unpopular budget blue print, including his plans to radically alter Medicare.
The internal strife over Ryan is telling not only because it highlights a conservative movement that, three months before Election Day, still hasn't coalesced. But it also spotlights the fact that Romney's presidential campaign is the first one on record being run by the media, instead of political pros. No longer content to cheer on Republicans, the right-wing media complex now sees itself first and foremost as the power behind the party and has decided it's running the GOP's crusade to oust Obama, complete with opposition research and on-air fundraising.
And now VP picks.
In other words, Republican strategists are watching Fox News steer its first-ever national campaign, complete with its Paul Ryan cheering section, and the strategists aren't sure it's working.
They have heard right-wing yays for Ryan, amplified by national media platforms. The Fox team has breathlessly compared Ryan to Ronald Reagan, while Brit Hume promoted the Congressman as "remarkably personable and disarming," "strikingly cheerful" and "personally quite appealing."
On the radio, Glenn Beck was enthused by the "good, good pick," which he said sprang from Romney's "political genius," and Rush Limbaugh gushed that Ryan had enthused the base like no other VP pick in recent history.
By contrast, the Republican nays may have sounded more muted, but that's because they're mostly relayed on background.
There is an unmistakable consensus among Republican operatives in Washington: Romney has taken a risk with Ryan that has only a modest chance of going right -- and a huge chance of going horribly wrong.
They're worried about inviting Medicare -- usually death for Republicans -- into the campaign.
The Hill this week also reported that while some Republican strategists were optimistic about Ryan's impact on the presidential race, they", "Republicans strategists are worried that Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) addition to the presidential ticket will cost their party House and Senate seats this fall." And yes, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), had to reassure Republican members who are nervous that Ryan's inclusion could hurt down-ticket candidates forced to defend Ryan's controversial budget plans.
How did the GOP's presumptive nominee come to pick a VP who instantly created so many problems for the party? Again, it revolves around the unprecedented fact that the right-wing media have seized control of this campaign, and the Republican Party, and they now dictate crucial decisions.
Remember the warning shots fired across Romney's bow this summer when Murdoch and his media minions decided they were not happy with the state of the Republican's presidential race.
*Fox's Eric Bolling says Romney should fire his whole staff
*Fox's Brian Kilmeade suggests Romney has to "toughen up"
*Fox's Bill Kristol compares Rommey to Michael Dukakis and John Kerry and says he needs to "get off autopilot."
*Fox owner Rupert Murdoch tweets that Romney needs to shake up his staff
*Murdoch's Wall Street Journal editorial page eviscerates Romney's campaign team as being incompetent
Do you think Romney's Boston headquarters wanted to deal with that kind of damning, public fallout following the campaign's all-important VP pick?
There's little question Romney picked the vice presidential candidate that the far-right was demanding in order for Romney to prove his conservative worth. The problem now for the GOP is that election pros tasked with winning over swing voters in local races across the country say the right-wing media's dream candidate could do serious damage to the party on Election Day.
From Politico, quoting a GOP operative:
The good news is that this ticket now has a vision. The bad news is that vision is basically just a chart of numbers used to justify policies that are extremely unpopular.
Indeed, according to a June 2011, NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, a clear plurality of voters (37 percent) thought Ryan's Medicare plan was a bad idea. (22 percent thought it was a good idea.) That same year, a CNN poll found 58 percent of Americans opposed Ryan and the Republicans' push to change Medicare.
Far-right pundits and bloggers though, safely ensconced in their right-wing media bubble, are having none of it. They have been too busy typing up posts about Romney's looming electoral "landslide." Media ideologues are too confident to worry about Republican claims that their beloved Ryan pick may have sealed a GOP defeat in November. They've also been too busy reassuring readers that a string of national polls last week showing Obama widening his lead over Romney definitely means it's Obama who's in "serious trouble."
I'm guessing that privately, nervous Republican strategists and campaign operatives would disagree. They're no doubt also asking how campaign novices in the right-wing media came to control the GOP's presidential run.