Both sides could be right: Ryan could be a game-changer in a race that, pre-Ryan, showed President Obama with a slight edge in polls. The question is, for which side? Does it turn the tide toward Romney, or shift it more fully toward Mr. Obama?
The outcome, analysts say, could depend on which side is able to define Ryan and his plan – neither the man nor the proposal is well-known by most Americans – in the next few weeks.
The selection of Ryan is “both an opportunity and a danger for the Romney campaign, and an opportunity for the Obama campaign,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The president starts out ahead, he says, and therefore “the danger for him is certainly there, but less immediate and overt.”
If the 2012 race turns into a “base election” – that is, with an electorate that consists mostly of loyal and “leaning” Democrats and Republicans, but not a lot of people who are newly inspired to vote, as in 2008 – then the addition of Ryan has the potential to tip the balance for Romney.