Here’s the memo:
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Joel Benenson
RE: The Announcement without a Bounce: Romney’s Choice of Ryan Falls Flat
DATE: August 16, 2012
Ø Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee is viewed less favorably and has had less positive impact than nearly any nomination in a quarter century.
ü Initial metrics place Romney’s choice on a par with the selections of Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle.
Ø The announcement of a nominee’s running-mate has typically led to a measurable bump for a ticket.
ü Since 1996, Republicans have received an average 4.7 point gain in the polls, according to Gallup.
Ø In contrast, initial polls show that Ryan has had virtually no impact on Romney’s position in the polls, even in polls that have been shown to have a Republican-leaning “house effect.”
ü In Gallup’s daily tracking poll, Romney has picked up only 1 point of support since the pick.
ü In Rasmussen’s daily tracker, Romney has lost a point from his pre-announcement standing, going from a 46-44 lead over the President to a 45-44 lead today.
ü According to the Economist’s YouGov poll, the President has extended his lead from 46-45 in early August to 47-44 in the three days after the choice of Ryan.
Ø Analysts often over-estimate the influence of a running-mate on a presidential campaign. Studies regularly show that voters base their choice on their opinions of those at the top of the tickets.
Ø Where the choice of a running mate matters, though, is in what it says about the decision-making ability and priorities of the presidential nominee.
Ø On this score, Romney seems to have failed a key test.
Ø Only 39% view Romney’s choice as “excellent” or “good,” while 42% say Ryan was an “only fair” or “poor” choice.
ü These are the lowest marks since Gallup began asking the question, 5 points lower than George H.W. Bush’s choice of Dan Quayle.
Ø Meanwhile, only 48% believe Ryan is qualified to be president, also near the bottom in the past quarter century.
ü Only Quayle (32%) and Sarah Palin (39%) were seen as less qualified.
Ø Defenders of the Ryan selection have pointed to Ryan’s low level of familiarity as the reason for these poor ratings and the negligible effect on the race dynamic.
Ø But historical data casts into doubt this analysis.
Ø In its first post-pick poll, Gallup finds 39% saying they had never heard of Ryan.
ü By comparison, Sarah Palin was unknown to 51%, and yet her choice was still viewed more favorably initially.
ü In 1996, Jack Kemp was unknown to 55% of voters. Nonetheless, his choice led to a 9-point bump in Bob Dole’s position in the horserace against President Bill Clinton.
Ø A more likely explanation is that for his running-mate, Romney has chosen a leader from the most extreme wing of the the least popular institution in America, Congressional Republicans.
ü In the most recent Gallup poll, only 10% approved of the job Congress was doing, the lowest rating Gallup has ever measured for Congress.
ü A recent PPP poll found that 60% agreed that “this is the worst Congress ever.”
Ø In this way, the coverage of Ryan emphasizing his position as the “intellectual leader” of the Republican Congress and the author of its agenda only serves to weaken the Romney-Ryan ticket.
ü Voters’ reaction to Romney’s choice of Ryan suggests a high level of concern that with his selection of running-mate, Romney has explicitly aligned himself with the leadership, the agenda and the extreme ideology of the least popular Congress in history.