What Is Paul Ryan's Job on the Romney Campaign?

Have you ever had a job where two different bosses were constantly tell you to do two different things? That's Paul Ryan right now.

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Have you ever had a job where two different bosses were constantly tell you to do two different things? That's Paul Ryan right now. The campaign wants Ryan to be Mitt Romney's Joe Biden -- the guy who attacks their opponent and wins over working-class white voters who may be skeptical about throwing their support behind a guy who's worth a fortune. Conservatives unhappy with the Romney campaign want Ryan to forcefully argue their ideas like how dramatically changing entitlement programs like Medicare is necessary to do immediately for the good of the country.

"If someone says you're going to change Medicare as we know it, you say, 'You’re damned right.' Paul Ryan can give that answer," the Club for Growth's Chris Chocola tells The New York Times' Trip Gabriel and Jonathan Weisman. They report "a whisper campaign is bursting into the open" -- one that demands Ryan be allowed to be more Ryan-y on the campaign trail.

Romney does not seem to agree with all of his vice presidential pick's ideas. When asked about Ryan's Medicare proposals on 60 Minutes, Romney said, "I'm the guy running for president, not him." And some Republicans don't want to see him espousing his thoughts about the future of Medicare. Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, told the Times, "Paul Ryan's job is to convince Middle America. The electorate is not ready for a two-hour dissertation on the unfunded liabilities within the Medicare system."

To this contitutency within the Republican Party, Ryan's job is to put a relatable face on the ticket.  (To see why, this Reuters/Ipsos poll from two weeks ago found there were almost twice as many Southern whites who said they were less likely to for a "very wealthy" candidate as there were who said they were less likely to vote for a candidate because he is black.) And Ryan has been trying his best on this front. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-SentinelRyan explains that his spot on the ticket put Wisconsin in play: "I'm the hometown guy... People know me. I think people root for their home team."

Romney needs more of that if he wants to make what were swing states competitive again. The New York Times' Thomas B. Edsall explains that Romney has effectively conceded Pennsylvania, even though its older, whiter demographics make it seem like potentially fertile territory for a Republican campaign. Michigan and Ohio, with similar demographics, have also turned into struggles for Romney. Why? Because while Romney nationally has an advantage among working-class whites of 48 percent to Obama's 35 percent, there's a big difference between northern and sothern voters. In the South, Romney beats Obama by 40 percentage points among working-class whites. In the West, Romney's lead is just 5 points. In the Northeast, it's just 4 points.

So here's Ryan in Michigan in late August: "I'm a Catholic deer hunter." He's repeatedly referenced Obama's bitter-clingers comment from 2008. He told rural Virginians earlier this month, "I have canoed–it really is! I have canoed this area, I have fished this area, I have backpacked this area, and my phone has blaze orange and camouflage." And there has been nary a chart to be seen. That may be on orders from Romney's Boston headquarters. During the Republican convention The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman quoted a consultant who talked about his work with the campaign:

"It took me months to get them to stop talking about 'median income,'" said another GOP consultant, who declined to be named because he was speaking about the private advice he gave. "They kept talking in economist jargon. I said, just say 'take-home pay!'"

So what's a working budget whiz to do? Well, what pretty much everyone with two bosses has to do at some point: tell one of them to get off their back. Asked by the Journal-Sentinel about conservative complaints that the campaign lacks details and is timid, Ryan told such critics to back off:

"A, we still have a ways to go. We still have a lot left that we're planning on doing,... B, I think that's just what conservatives do by nature. I think that's just the nature of conservative punditry is to do that -- to kind of complain -- about any imperfection they might see."

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