State House Roundup: The Ryan Factor

Gift horses come in all shapes and sizes, even the form of a wiry congressman from Wisconsin.

House Minority Leader Brad Jones happened to be at a swim meet Saturday morning when Mitt Romney announced his pick of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan to be his vice presidential running mate. A 42-year-old, seven-term Congressman from Janesville, Wisconsin, Ryan is known best for his intense physical workouts and limited government, budget-slashing "Path to Prosperity."

"Members of the caucus were calling saying it was a great pick, and some were members who weren't necessarily all that engaged in the presidential race," Jones, who believes Ryan on the GOP ticket puts a swing state like Wisconsin back in play, told the News Service.

But as the week unfolded, it became harder and harder to tell who was more excited by R-Squared: Republicans, or Democrats?

To hear Jones tell it, Ryan is a candidate who could appeal to all factions of the Republican Party, from the moderates to the fiscal hawks to the social conservatives. But if Ryan was intended as a GOP unifier who can win over those voters never quite enchanted with Romney as the party's nominee, Massachusetts Democrats also seemed to embrace the pick, even if the words coming out of the mouths seemed more apocalyptic than ho-hum.

"I will keep fighting to preserve Medicare and Social Security. I strongly oppose the Paul Ryan Budget that will dismantle both of these critical programs that seniors depend on. The Ryan-Tisei agenda will end Medicare and force the middle class to pay more," U.S. Rep. John Tierney told seniors at a retirement community in Beverly.

For Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Tierney who are locked in tight partisan battles, Ryan's selection presented an opening. Forget Scott Brown, or Richard Tisei, who's never served a day in Congress. Like a game of campaign Mad-Libs, Ryan's name got substituted into every attack, ignoring the fact that the Bay State GOP appeared determined to keep Paul Ryan at arms' length.

The Ryan budget plan, which included proposals to turn Medicare into a voucher program and overhaul Social Security, became the Romney-Ryan-Brown-Tisei budget. Brown called Ryan a "good guy" whose budget he voted against twice in the U.S. Senate, but it mattered little.

Democrats argued that electing a Republican to Congress would help further Romney's agenda, and as of Saturday Romney's agenda was Ryan's agenda.

"Did Barack Obama picking Joe Biden lock Obama into everything Joe Biden did in his kagillion years in the Senate? No, that's ridiculous," Jones said. "They were compatible, but make no mistake about it. Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket."

As for Jones on the Ryan budget plan? "There are probably aspects I would like and not like. It's important to have serious people putting serious proposals on the table and having a discussion and there's not enough of that in Washington, but would say Paul Ryan's effort was more sincere than the president's," he said.

Bay State Democrats seemed offended by Ryan's ideology, but simultaneously appeared to relish the potential Ryan's inclusion on the Romney tickets holds to energize Democratic voters and fit with an election strategy that, at least partially, depends on riding Obama's popularity into office.

For his part, Brown this week delivered a rather policy-light "major policy speech" in Randolph in what one banker called a "very friendly environment" before the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, attacking Warren as a tax-happy Democrat with plans to siphon $3.4 trillion from taxpayers' pockets in the next 10 years. Warren called the figure "made up," and chalked up the criticism to Brown becoming increasingly worried about his chances.

Outside of the campaign, the summer slumber on Beacon Hill was in full effect, the House and Senate tending to mostly minor bills and local issues during their brief informal sessions, and Gov. Deval Patrick emerging once, for the first time in 10 days, to mark the opening of the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital.

With so much not to do around the Legislature these days, retiring Rep. Charles Murphy came to the realization that he might as well keep his job as state representative from Burlington, and the remainder of the $61,000 salary he will earn through December.

Murphy, who had previously said he would resign after formal sessions ended on July 31 to start his new job as vice president of public policy and government affairs at Arcadia Solutions, decided he'd rather stick it out, and worked out a deal with his new employer to do just that.

"There's no reason for him to resign," said Scott Ferson, a consultant with the Liberty Square Group, who returned calls placed to Murphy. By Friday Murphy had still not explained his decision in his own words.

The latest jobs report for July also showed a slight tenth-of-a-point uptick in unemployment, despite the eighth straight month of job gains reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At 6.1 percent unemployment, business groups urged observers not to get too high or too low.

Slow but steady has been the trend and will continue to be, unless the pervasive uncertainty clears up, for the foreseeable future, they said.

This program aired on August 17, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.


More from WBUR

Listen Live