Paul Ryan: The Base Mobilization Strategy that Romney Doesn’t Need

One theory of why Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate is that Romney needs to build enthusiasm among conservatives—a.k.a. mobilize the Republican base.   As one journalist said to me via email:

But based on what Ryan, himself, and others close to him have said, I think the theory is a base-mobilization one. They argue that’s the lesson of the Scott Walker recall election – that you can take an unpopular position and be rewarded by a big boost in conservative turnout.

Maybe this theory is correct and maybe not.  But assume it is.  If so, then, like Sean Trende and Noam Scheiber, I think there is good reason to doubt it.   Here is Trende: “Unlike 2008, the Republican base is pretty well ginned up to vote this time around—almost all the polling finds GOP enthusiasm outstripping Democratic enthusiasm—and it has consolidated around Romney.”  Yes, it was consolidated IN APRIL.

On the enthusiasm question, consider these numbers from a combined set of three July YouGov polls.  Here is the percentage of Republicans who are “extremely enthusiastic” or “very enthusiastic” about voting in the upcoming November election, broken down by their self-reported ideology.

Conservative Republicans are moreenthusiastic, not less enthusiastic, than other Republicans.  If Romney wants to engage in base mobilization, he should be focusing on the 27% of Republicans who self-identify as moderate or liberal.

Now, it is true that most Republicans say they say are voting against Obama (63%) rather than for Romney (36%).  But conservative and moderate Republicans aren’t very different on this score.  About 42% of liberal or moderate Republicans about they are affirmatively voting for Romney, and so do 31% of those who call themselves “somewhat conservative” and 39% who call themselves “very conservative.”

There are many reasons why Romney may have picked Ryan.  A Romney advisor told Politico’s Mike Allen that it wasn’t about electoral politics at all, suggesting that Romney’s thinking was “I’m gonna be president. Who’s going to help me succeed?”  But if the real reason was base mobilization, then the Ryan pick is truly a solution in search of a problem.

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About John Sides 27 Articles

Affiliation: George Washington University

John Sides is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at George Washington University.

Professor Sides studies political behavior in American and comparative politics. His current research focuses on political campaigns, the effects of factual information on public opinion, citizenship laws and national identity, and measurement equivalence. His work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, American Politics Research, British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Political Communication, Political Studies, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and Legislative Studies Quarterly. He helped found and contributes to The Monkey Cage, a political science blog.

Professor Sides received his Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, 2003.

Visit: John Sides Page

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