Published August 13, 2012
Though Democrats are hammering Paul Ryan as the bringer of Medicare's doom, the Republican vice presidential candidate is far more popular among seniors than he's given credit for.
Same goes for women. And independents.
Surveys conducted shortly before Mitt Romney's VP roll-out show Ryan actually polls fairly well among all three of these groups. And while Democrats claim to be ecstatic at Romney's choice -- they say he's an easy target, and they've already gone to town portraying him as "extreme" -- the bookish lawmaker from Janesville, Wis., could end up bringing more votes to the ticket than he turns away.
A recent Rasmussen poll showed that 31 percent of likely senior voters gave Ryan a "very favorable" rating, compared with 21 percent of all legal-age voters giving him that rating. Just 16 percent of seniors gave him a "very unfavorable" rating.
So while Democrats are chipping away at Romney in Florida as the GOP candidate visits the Sunshine State on Monday, drawing attention to Ryan's controversial Medicare overhaul plan, polling suggests seniors might be at least amenable to the VP pick.
Calculations about which voters Ryan could bring to the Republican ticket were certainly a factor in Romney's selection, and in any presidential candidate's choice in running mate. It's unclear who exactly the Ryan pick will resonate with, and who it will turn away, but Ryan doesn't appear to be starting off on the wrong foot with several key demographic groups.
A CNN poll earlier this month showed more women have a positive view of Ryan than not. It showed the same among independents.
Republican campaign consultant Ed Rollins said Monday that senior voters -- including the millions in Florida -- are informed enough to know that the budget plans by Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, will not take away their Medicare benefits. The latest Ryan plan would offer government payments to seniors, a decade from now, to either purchase private plans or stay in the current system.
"Anybody who's getting Medicare today will get it," Rollins said on Fox News. "We shouldn't concede Florida at this time. ... Go argue to the residents of Florida this affects your kids and grandkids. This is a careful argument but you have to make that argument."
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus later told Fox News that seniors also know that, without major changes, their children will not have any Medicare program.
Ryan has decent favorability numbers among independent voters, a key voting bloc that often swings races and could also decide the 2012 race.
Ryan has a favorability rating of 27 percent, according to a CNN poll taken Aug. 7-8. His unfavorable rating among independents was 22 percent. Ryan's rating among all registered voters was 29 percent, compared to 20 percent unfavorable, according to the poll.
However, Ryan -- like most of those in the running for Romney's VP pick -- is still a bit of an unknown quantity for many voters. Roughly half of all registered voters in the CNN poll either had never heard of him or held no opinion of him.
This means how Ryan is viewed could still depend in large part on how effectively Democrats and Republicans shape his image, and on how Ryan presents himself in the weeks ahead.
Democrats have attacked Ryan for his House GOP-backed proposals that aim to reduced the deficit and balance the federal budget, saying his plans for Medicare would “throw granny off a cliff.”
President Obama on Sunday welcomed Ryan to the race, saying he was a “decent” and “family,” though he “fundamentally” disagreed with his vision.
But on Monday, the Obama team and its surrogates continued with their attack, included senior campaign adviser David Axelrod saying CBS’ “This Morning” that Ryan is a "certifiable right-wing ideologue."
Ryan is expected to help in Wisconsin, the battleground state where he has been elected to the House seven straight times. No Republican presidential candidate has won that state since Ronald Reagan in 1984, and Obama won there in 2008 by 14 percentage points.
A Marquette University poll released last week had Obama leading by 5 percentage points, 50-45.
Still, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, who held Ryan's House seat for two terms before retiring, thinks the addition of Ryan and his budget skills give Republicans an "excellent chance" of taking the state.
Another Rasmussen poll last month showed Ryan had a favorability rating in Wisconsin of 36 percent, compared to an unfavorable rating of 29 percent.
"Paul's (got) an all-American family," Neumann told Fox News. "I think that's the other thing independents are going to see. He's got a beautiful wife and three kids -- all the right things. He started here in the small town of Janesville and winds up on the ticket as vice president of the United States of America. That's the American Dream we're talking about."
Ryan finished fourth in a Fox News poll in July that asked voters who they would to see as GOP vice president.