Mitt Romney appears to have picked Paul Ryan as his running mate over the objections of top political advisors, offering a glimpse at the leadership style of the Republican nominee in the most important decision of his campaign.
Romney's aides have stressed publicly in the 24 hours since Romney electrified conservatives with his choice that the pick was the governor's alone. They have been less forthcoming on the flip side: That much of his staff opposed the choice for the same reason that many pundits considered it unlikely — that Ryan's appealingly wonky public image and a personality Romney finds copasetic will matter far less than two different budget plans whose details the campaign now effectively owns.
"Everybody was against [Ryan] to start with only Romney for," said one top Republican, who is skeptical of the choice and griped that Romney's top advisors have "been giving Mitt everything he wanted in this campaign."
Romney, his advisor Beth Myers told reporters Saturday, met with a team of about a half-dozen key campaign advisors several times on the issue, and spoke to a wide circle of trusted allies; it's not unusual that there would be differences, or that the instinct of many would be to do no harm, and to keep the campaign focused on the economy and on Barack Obama. Romney's decision to roll the dice himself reflects a different side than often seen of the cautious candidate: A desire to surround himself with people he genuinely respects, and a confidence in his own political judgement.
Ryan spent Sunday on the campaign trail with Romney, helping the candidate draw some of the largest and most enthusiastic crowds of the presidential cycle. He also passed some early tests with flying colors, proving an engaging and comfortable figure under the white hot national spotlight. A media that cast doubts on the basic qualifications of the last Republican running mate, the previously obscure Sarah Palin, to step into the office of the presidency has evinced no such doubts about the Wisconsin congressman, a familiar figure in Georgetown and New York.
Some of the doubters, though, also see warning signals. Congressional candidates in difficult districts and Florida Republicans are not eager to debate Ryan's attachment to converting Medicare into a system of vouchers for workers under 55. The fact that Ryan's push to cut capital gains taxes, which Romney opposes, would reduce the presidential nominees own taxes to nothing has also gotten unwelcome attention.
Another Republican in conversation with the campaign — though not a member of the inner circle of Romney advisers — said the early skeptics tended to be the political professionals, including consultants Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer, and pollster Neil Newhouse, while Myers, foreign policy advisor Dan Senor, and ultimately Romney himself favored Ryan. (Those involved declined to shed light on the campaign's most confidential conversations; and others, including Myers, disputed that characterization; she said Saturday she kept her opinion to herself.)
The debate inside the campaign, sources and other media reports said, in fact took into account many of the same concerns about Ryan that were aired publicly.
"Many close aides had been lobbying for the low-risk, nonobjectionable Pawlenty, arguing that the two could run as outsiders taking on Washington," Politico noted Sunday.
And Romney's own aides, in conversations with reporters over the last day, have also made clear that the candidate himself, not his advisors, drove the Ryan choice, something they have put in the context of Romney's forceful leadership.
"He made his decision to select Congressman Ryan," advisor Myers said. "It was his decision alone."
Ben Smith is the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed and is based in New York.
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