Romney could stand to channel Ryan’s upward mobility theme a bit more

by Ryan Streeter on September 11, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Unease with the Romney campaign is noticeably setting back in among Republicans. After Romney won the primary, his Republican critics mainly laid down their swords and decided to play along in an effort to beat Obama, even though plenty kept grumbling. The Paul Ryan pick energized establishment and Tea Party Republicans alike, and it was as if Romney had been reborn. But that enthusiasm seems to have waned as the Ryan choice has not made Romney any more publicly committed to the big, bold policy ideas that Ryan is known for.

Mike Gerson explains it this way:

Romney is comfortable with Ryan and an improved candidate in his presence. But Romney’s message is untouched by his running mate’s revolutionary fiscal realism. Romney chose Ryan, not Ryanism.

Romney’s convention speech did not change the unfavorable stability of the campaign. Romney softened his image through biography; he did not broaden his appeal with unexpected outreach. There were no innovative policy initiatives directed toward Hispanics or suburban women. The speech was humanizing but ideologically uncreative.

I would submit that Romney could stand to internalize not just Ryan’s “revolutionary fiscal realism” but another topic Ryan regularly talks about: how his policy ideas would create more upward mobility for more Americans.

The Jack Kemp protoge is able to connect tax policy with the basic human aspiration to seek a better life. He’s made this moral undercurrent a regular part of his public remarks about otherwise wonky topics like marginal tax rates and Medicare price controls. Romney has done his utmost to show that despite his upbringing and fabulous business success, he is a good and normal husband and father.

What he hasn’t done yet is convince the wives and daughters of other husbands and fathers, and the generation of future fathers, that he wants next year and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on, to be better for them than the year before. People are hungering for a sense of renewed progress. Not progress in the grand historical terms that Obama imagines himself to embody, but progress in their lives, vocations, incomes, family health and happiness. That’s what we mean by upward mobility, and voters could stand to hear Romney channeling Ryan on that point a bit more.