Mitt Romney had felt pressured all week into making the move he had said would not be forthcoming until right before the Republican convention, in Tampa at the end of August.
However, this was the week when Romney’s poll numbers, and his own aides’ unfortunate tendency to tell the truth about him, conspired to force his hand on his vice-presidential pick.
Last night the story broke that Romney would announce his VP choice this morning and that it would be Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the head of the House Budget Committee, and generally seen by Republicans as a “true” conservative, unlike moderate Romney.
This morning, as promised, Mitt Romney announced amidst great fanfare in Norfolk, Virginia, aboard the WWII-era battleship, the USS Wisconsin, that Paul Ryan was his choice as a running mate.
However, the gaffe gremlin, which has afflicted Romney during the entire campaign this year, resurfaced to highlight what Romney must have been really thinking: the Republican Party would prefer Ryan at the top of the ticket.
As Romney concluded his introduction, he said to the enthusiastic crowd:
“Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan.”
For a moment, there was silence, as the crowd tried to process what they had just heard, no doubt wondering if their ears were working correctly, and if Romney had, once again, flubbed an important campaign event. Answer, yes he had.
While misspeaking in this way might not seem like such a terrible thing in a different context, some of the Republican Party’s main pundits have been out in force this week denouncing Romney in the harshest terms for being too moderate, and for betraying the GOP’s values. After Romney Press Secretary, Andrea Saul, made the mistake of saying something positive about Romneycare, Romney’s health care program in Massachusetts which formed a basis for Obamacare, the GOP conservative wing essentially ordered Romney to put Ryan in as VP or risk abandonment by the Republican base.
With such a devastating public vote of distrust and disapproval coming from the heart of the Republican Party, it is clear that Romney well understands he is viewed as the second (or lower) choice on the ticket. And his Freudian admission today appears to confirm what he was really thinking.
While Ryan might add some energy to a Romney campaign that is clearly suffering in many ways, with Romney’s own self-esteem so clearly battered by this difficult week (one of many in a terrible summer for Romney’s campaign), it will remain to be seen if Romney can recover himself to run not only against Barack Obama, but also against what must be Romney’s giant disappointment that Republicans want Pal Ryan and not the presumptive presidential nominee at the top of the ticket.