The GOP’s Shrinking Base

The white working-class group that Romney and his VP pick are courting isn't what it used to be.

(The Root) — Mitt Romney has managed to do the impossible: find a running mate who is the mirror image of himself.

In a surprising, though not completely unexpected, move, Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential nominee. Ryan, who hails from the small town of Janesville, Wisconsin, has risen to national prominence in recent years as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

His signature legislative proposal, the Path to Prosperity, has been widely criticized for its reduction of taxes for corporations and wealthy Americans — while deeply cutting social welfare programs. The Paul Ryan budget effectively destroys Medicare by turning it into a voucher program; slashes funding to Medicaid, which serves single mothers, children and the poor; and privatizes Social Security, leaving the elderly without a safety net.

Meanwhile, Romney’s “Etch A Sketch” candidacy — with his reinvention from a Massachusetts moderate to ultraconservative presidential candidate — is still plagued by accusations of flip-flopping and pandering. This required him to choose a running mate with unquestionable credibility.

Enter Paul Ryan.

Digging Into Ryan’s Roots

Ryan, a conservative Catholic and Tea Party darling, provides a buffer for Romney with evangelical Christians, many of whom remain dubious about Romney’s Mormon faith. Others cite Romney’s blue blood background and inability to connect with average Americans as a reason to stay home on Election Day. Ryan is a conduit to this key constituency. He’s from Wisconsin, a quintessential Midwestern state, and he enjoys college ties to the key swing state of Ohio.

From the outside, Ryan’s roots appeal directly to the base whose support Romney desperately needs to win, namely working-class whites. And this is the story Republicans have already begun to tell. Pundits have painted a picture of Ryan as a normal guy who lost his dad when he was 16, and paid for college tuition with Social Security benefits. You know — someone just like you.