The big speech at the Republican Convention tonight will come from Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Congressman who is Mitt Romney’s running mate. For many people — including Kish and me — it will be the first time we get to see Ryan make a speech.
The speech will be important, because President Obama’s supporters are doing what they can to convince us that Ryan is a dangerous extremist, a fringe politician who wants to scalp the poor and enrich the wealthy, push granny off the cliff, eviscerate the social safety net, and hurl the nation back into the dark ages. Of course, that’s what modern politics is like — we can’t just respectfully disagree with someone, we have to try to depict them as the devil incarnate.
I’m skeptical about Ryan’s supposed extremism. He’s fiscally conservative, sure, but no nut job Republican is going to elected repeatedly from a blue-collar district that favored President Obama over John McCain in 2008 — and that is exactly what Ryan has done, and in 2010 he got 68 percent of the vote. I think we can trust the voters in Wisconsin congressional district number 1 to not repeatedly reelect a bomb-throwing nutcase.
Still, many Americans will form their first impression of Ryan tonight, which means he’ll never have a better opportunity to try to shrug off the extremist label. As we all know, first impressions often can be lasting ones.