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Because Washington has no taste, "bedwetting" is a term of art in the city. When there is intra-party fretting over major decisions, campaign aides like to call that "bedwetting" to suggest the worries exist because the worriers are wimps, not because the campaign screwed up. Bedwetting is the term of the moment, with Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate. See:

  • Romney needed to pick Ryan, The Wall Street Journal argued last week, because Ryan had taken on Medicare against the advice of "Beltway bedwetters." 
  • Politico's Jonathan Martin tweeted his story Tuesday about Republican consultants worried about Ryan with the words "Bedwetting begins.
  • When Romney's campaign was struggling to respond to stories about Bain Capital, an aide told Politico, "All of this hew and cry, you know, from the bedwetters who get to sit on the sidelines, aren’t going to affect what we’re going to do and our plan."
  • Perhaps he had the courage to do so because Romney's veteran campaign staff, in the words of Mark McKinnon said in July, knows "how to fade the heat and hose down the bedwetters."
  • Noting that Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown had a "cautious response" to Ryan's selection, Politico's Charlie Mahtesian follows up Tuesday, "If the bedwetting contagion expands beyond the consultant class and the GOP’s most vulnerable members, it will be a clue to the GOP’s level of alarm over the potential downballot effect of the Romney-Ryan ticket." 

That's so much bedwetting! It makes sense, since Washington seems filled with sociopaths, and we all know from TV crime dramas, wetting the bed is the No. 1 sign that a baby will grow up to be a sociopath. But it's worth looking at whether the bedwetting is actually dumb panic or real concerns about the risk of Romney's pick.

The "bedwetters" certainly have strength in numbers. Politico pulls some mostly anonymous GOP fretting from "more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives."  They worry Ryan has no foreign policy experience, and no private sector experience. More important, they worry about Ryan's budget plan and how it will force a debate about how to fix Medicare. Some worries are vague: one worrier suggests they can only win if they "win the battle to define Medicare." Others are more concrete: Medicare could cost Romney Florida. Another said candidates in close House and Senate races are having crash conference calls to figure out how to deal with the Ryan plan. A third said the campaign's "vision is basically just a chart of numbers used to justify policies that are extremely unpopular."

The Washington Examiner's Byron York also finds some fretting rooted in Ryan's performance. In Romney and Ryan's interview with CBS News, the word "budget" was mentioned twice as frequently as the word "jobs." They talked about being wonks, but never mentioned the unemployment rate. York's anonymous worrier gave the campaign a deadline: "This is fraught with peril that in a month we're still talking about Medicare, that we're in a World War I trench warfare on who's worst on Medicare."

Evidence "bedwetting" is actually legit concern:

  • A USA Today/ Gallup poll finds Ryan the least popular vice-presidential pick since Dan Quayle.

  • Democrats found Ryan's Medicare proposal to be very unpopular in polls.
  • The Denver Post's editorial on Paul Ryan calls him "a radical choice." 

  • Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election in New York's 26th congressional district last year in part because she tied her opponent to Ryan's budget plan.

Evidence "bedwetting" is indeed bedwetting:

  • Hochul's victory also had something to do with the fact that the election was held to replace a Republican who had resigned over a Craigslist sex scandal.
  • "Paul Ryan shirtless" is a popular search term.
  • Rasmussen finds Ryan has a 51 percent approval rating in Ohio, and a 39 percent disapproval rating.
  • York found Republican fears were allayed by a single speech Ryan made Monday.
  • "On our side, there was maybe 70 percent relief and 30 percent glee," James Carville said in July 2000 about George W. Bush's choice of Dick Cheney as his running mate. (On the other hand, it might be worth noting that Al Gore won the popular vote, and the big bad policy thing Democrats wanted to hang on Cheney was his vote "against the South African government's release of Nelson Mandela.")

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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