the national interest

Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio Rebranding Selves

We are deeply worried that the perception we don’t care about the poor will harm our image with the non-poor. Also we are concerned about the poor. Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Politico has a big story today about the efforts of Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan to rebrand themselves as the solution to their party’s unpopularity (as opposed to, say, fierce advocates of the policies that are themselves the cause of the party’s unpopularity.) Politico is the perfect journalistic outfit to handle the topic, as it appropriately approaches the topic from a perspective of pure political cynicism, dispensing with even a cursory need to treat the ideas themselves as a serious attempt to actually solve problems.

Ryan understands his challenge as to rebrand himself not merely as the austere budget hawk he has pitched himself as but as an optimistic champion of the poor and social mobility. The story recounts that Ryan repeatedly urged Mitt Romney to woo poor and minority speakers, only to be rebuffed, except for this one time:

Campaign sources tell us that within days of being named Romney’s running mate, Ryan began agitating to reach out to people living in disadvantaged, at-risk communities, arguing internally that Republicans are badly served when they seem to be talking only to rich white people and advancing an agenda that benefits primarily the well-off

Romney advisers decreed that there was no obvious political constituency for those ideas that was winnable by Republicans and that it was off-message for a campaign preaching a broader economic message. With two weeks left in the campaign, Ryan finally gave a civil society speech at Cleveland State University, one of his favorite moments of the campaign.

Ryan’s speech at Cleveland State did insist that he loves the poor and wants them to succeed, but the actual policy argument he made was that he plans to help the poor by taking away subsidized health care and nutritional assistance and thereby give them the kick in the pants they need to get off their lazy butts and stop being moochers. Ryan had no policy to offer the poor other than the incentive of being hungrier and sicker, and if he has since decided to adopt such a policy, he has not informed Politico.

Rubio, meanwhile, is looking to brand himself as something more than just the Latino Guy. The best detail in the story is the description of the crushing blow Rubio sufered when President Obama unilaterally implemented the Dream Act, which Rubio had been planning to offer as a bill in Congress:

Rubio suffered a bad break in July, when Obama announced a new administration policy benefiting young illegal immigrants, pre-empting a plan Rubio had spent months quietly selling to fellow Republican senators. Rubio’s aides learned about Obama’s shrewd move when it popped on The Associated Press wire. Their optimism about getting something passed evaporated instantly because they knew the internal Senate politics of the issue had turned against the senator.

But they were also surely elated that Obama had solved the problem that their bill was designed to address, right? Because the publicity of passing the bill was just a secondary benefit, and the main point was to help people, right? You forgot to mention that part.

Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio Rebranding Selves