Mitt Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate marks yet another surrender by the Republican nominee to the right-wing media. On the ropes after a brutal month and with his conservative media allies threatening to abandon him, Romney was left with no choice but to pick a favorite of that crowd, even though, as the Washington Post's Ezra Klein notes, that pick both drives his candidacy further to the right and represents an abandonment of his campaign strategy to date.
Why else would a candidate who had built his campaign around the idea that business experience trumped public sector experience choose someone who had spent his life in government? Why else would a candidate who had studiously avoided giving any policy details lash himself to someone so closely associated with complex proposals to slash the social safety net?
Over the past week the leading lights of the right-wing media have demanded that Romney prove his conservative principles by selecting Ryan as his running mate, with praise for the potential pick coming from the editors of The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, and National Review.
Fox News, the most powerful right-wing media outlet in the country, has spent years praising Ryan as a “star,” a “genius,” and a man of “courage.” News Corp. was ground zero for the GOP's rollout of Ryan's budget, which their networks heavily touted. Last year Fox contributors called for Ryan to run for president in his own right. Fox News Sunday even made Paul Ryan a birthday cake for an appearance he made on the program.
Romney leapt at the opportunity to please those opinion leaders and their audiences.
It couldn't come at a better time for the Republican nominee, who seemed to have lost the trust of his base in recent days, as woeful polls and gaffe after gaffe unfolded. What could have been the final straw came when Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul dared to tout the health care plan Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts - probably his signature accomplishment in government. The response from the right-wing media was swift and brutal, with CNN contributor Erick Erickson suggesting that the comments could have cost Romney the election and Ann Coulter calling for a boycott on Romney contributions until the campaign fired Saul.
Expect such criticisms to die away now that Romney has picked their “rock star.”