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In general US parlance R&R means rest and recreation but in US politics R&R refers to Romney and Ryan, the team running for president and vice president on the Republican party ticket. Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, earned the top slot by winning primary contests in a host of states; he picked Paul Ryan, a Congressman from the state of Wisconsin as his running mate. But when he introduced Ryan at a rally in Virginia, Romney proclaimed, “Here is the next president of the United States!” Realising what he had done, he promptly observed that everyone makes mistakes. However, this was one of those mistakes that showed Romney is not as in control and clear-minded as a presidential candidate needs to be.
There is no doubt that Ryan, 42, a young, aggressive seven-term member of the US House of Representatives, was chosen because he provides a contrast to Romney, 65, a rather staid businessman with a net worth of $190-250 million. Ryan, who is chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, is a Washington insider, Romney a businessman who made a four-year foray into politics. His Mormon faith has made him the subject of considerable controversy.
Romney’s main achievement while governor of Massachusetts was the adoption of a healthcare programme that was used as the model of the plan eventually put in place by President Barack Obama, his Democratic rival. Instead of being proud of this advance, Romney, who is not a Republican ideologue, has tried to distance himself from his healthcare programme. The conservative Republican faithful abjure governmental welfare programmes and consider healthcare for all “socialised medicine.”
His attitude is puzzling. Romney comes from the moderate wing of the Republican party. His father, George Romney, was a two-term governor of Michigan. Mitt at first backed the Vietnam war but eventually decided it was wrong.
Ryan is an ideologue, a self-made man, and devout Catholic. He advocates downsizing government and lowering taxes on the rich, but also favours big spending on bail-outs for banks and industry. He wants to cut by 33 per cent spending on education, training, employment and social services. He stands accused of seeking to cut benefits for the poor, unemployed and elderly – although his own university education was partially funded by his dead father’s social security.
Ryan’s main aim is to restructure the federal government. He voted against Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform act (modelled on Romney’s Massachusetts programme) and to repeal it in 2012. He also opposed equal pay for women and co-sponsored a bill that would ban in vitro fertilisation which has helped many infertile couples to conceive.
The two men are as physically different as chalk and cheese, as the saying goes. Romney is the “older guy,” the typical Republican businessman in suit and tie, a bit stiff and stodgy. Ryan is an ambitious go-getter and physical work-out freak – since his male forbearers died of heart attacks in their 50s.
Although the duo has tried to focus the campaign on Obama’s failures, the presence of Ryan on the ticket ensures that conservative Republican positions and policies will become central to the debate.
Indeed, by choosing Ryan as his partner, Romney, who is in the driving seat, is making his primary appeal to the conservative wing of the Republican party.
Lauren Brown Jarvis, writing for Huffington Post, predicts R&R “will be defeated.” She argues that women voters will reject them because they seek to deny women freedom to choose when to have children and put women “back into the kitchen.” She also says that middle class voters will dismiss them because they seek to augment the wealth of the 1 per cent most wealthy while harming the middle class and poor.
Neither Romney nor Ryan has foreign policy experience. Romney’s recent trip to Britain, Israel and Poland was a disaster. He kept saying the wrong thing. In Britain he upset Prime Minister David Cameron by criticising the organisation of the Olympic Games and in Israel he angered Palestinians by ignoring their existence and expressed support for Israel’s call for military strikes on Iran’s nuclear programme.
John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential hopeful defeated by Obama, praised R&R and his own disastrous choice as running mate, former Tea Party darling Sarah Palin, expressed her support for the duo. One joker quipped, “Congratulations to Romney for picking Meg Ryan.” As a very popular actress, she might have won him many more votes than Paul Ryan.
Independent voters, who could decide the race, are wary of both R&R and Obama. Many, who have been deeply disappointed over Obama’s failure to deliver the “change” he promised in 2008, do not like Romney and are suspicious of Ryan. Few voters believe either R&R or Obama have a serious plan for reviving the country’s economy which has been hovering on the brink of depression since Obama entered the White House.
R&R are set to be formally declared the Republican team at the party’s national convention which takes place in Tampa, Florida, from August 27-30.
The Democratic convention is set for Sept. 3-6, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Both of these nominating conventions are public relations events as the candidates of both the major parties have already been selected. Obama has chosen as his running mate incumbent Joe Biden. The Rasmussen tracking poll showed Obama winning 46 per cent of the vote on Friday as compared to 45 per cent for Romney. Other polls have said they are running neck-and-neck with 47 per cent each.
The polls also reveal that Republicans are more enthusiastic about the contest than Democrats, many of whom are bitterly disappointed in Obama and may not bother to vote.
The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East
affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict