The Washington Post‘s ‘The Fix’ blog has some bad news for Democrats: their attempts to paint Paul Ryan as an extremist fringe candidate seem to have failed.
A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll asked Americans to say what one word comes to mind when they think about the GOP vice presidential nominee. And people have a hard time finding negative things to say about him.None of the top nine words people use to describe Ryan are are negative, and six of the nine are positive (“intelligent,” “good,” “energetic,” “honest,” etc.).Not until you get to the 10th- and 11th-most-cited words do Democrats’ attempts to define Ryan begin to register. That’s the point at which people start describing Ryan as an “idiot” and “extremist.”And of the top 27 most-cited words, twice as many are positive — 16 — as negative — eight.
The reason for the messaging failure, in our view, is that while many people have doubts about the solutions Ryan (or anybody else) has brought forward, there is deep public unease about the sustainability of the current entitlement state. That means that issues that used to be the “third rail of American politics” aren’t quite so deadly anymore.Voters may well end up rejecting the GOP message in November, but they no longer dismiss concerns about key government programs out of hand. On entitlements, as on education and public unions, the country continues to drift away from the orthodoxies of the blue social model. There is not a lot of confidence out there in GOP proposals to replace it, but that seems to matter a bit less and underlying confidence in the financial future of the entitlement state starts to fade.