VOTERS worldwide always claim they want serious political candidates. They don’t care for showboaters or glamour puppies. They crave politicians of substance over image.
In the US, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has called voters’ bluffs. He’s named as his prospective vice-president Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan (pictured), one of the most serious American politicians currently holding office.
To say that Ryan places policy above image would be to understate matters. He’s a hardcore economics geek whose plans for financial reform run directly counter to President Barack Obama’s spend-and-smile approach. Forget “hope” and “change”, Obama’s slogans for his 2008 election. Ryan is more “fiscal rectitude” and “looming insolvency of entitlement programs”.
So, he’s not exactly Mr Charm. But charm has its limits. Obama can deliver lines that make his followers squeal with delight, but powerful economic arguments have a way of stopping charm dead.
To test this theory, assemble a bunch of Ferrari road tests. Use these to build a case for purchasing one of the Italian sports cars. See if you can defeat your spouse’s counter-argument, which involves merely pointing at your bank balance.
Economics wins, at least in that case.
Ryan’s challenge will be to gain traction with what is a hard-medicine message. His recent political history involves telling the US what it doesn’t want to hear that the place is spending way too much and gigantic cuts are required.
He might be right, but that’s no guarantee of electoral support. Voters may turn away. And, despite what voters insist, image is important. Ryan is so geeky that he makes bookish Bob Carr look like a weight-lifting ‘roid rager. Geeks, however, have the benefit of being largely immune from personal attacks. Full-time geekiness leaves little time for sleaze. It appears unlikely that Ryan will ever end up facing a possible jail term after fathering a child with a campaign worker, as is the case with 2004 Democrat vice-presidential candidate John Edwards.
He seems clean, but that won’t stop the usual political probing. “I know that the Democrats are working very hard today,” Romney said on the weekend after announcing Ryan’s selection.
“They’re pulling out their books, they’re looking at every vote, they’re interviewing everybody in his neighbourhood. They’re not going to find anything.” Maybe they should. A certain Aussie geek once ended up on front pages after he’d apologised to his wife after a visit to Scores. It possibly helped his election campaign. Hit the clubs, Paul.