The other day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi nonchalantly explained to a group in Florida that conservatives are in the "E. coli club."
The next day, a pro-Barack Obama super PAC began running an ad blaming Mitt Romney and Bain Capital for the death of a steelworker's wife (who actually had insurance and passed away seven years after Romney ran Bain and five years after her husband was laid off from a money-losing steel plant).
The Obama campaign has, more than once, implied that Romney is a felon.
We often have the tendency to believe that political attacks are purely cynical, but that's probably not the case. Some attacks are presumptive.
Many liberals already believe that Republicans wouldn't mind seeing children (poor, minority and handicapped children, at least) contracting deadly bacterial diseases, even if conservatives won't explicitly say so. Many liberals assume that the wealthy (especially those who have an exotic career, such as "banker") never really pay their share in taxes and probably cheat and devastate the poor to achieve success. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might not have any proof that Romney hasn't paid a penny in taxes in a decade, but it plays to a larger social truth about conservatives; it is a given.
So, no matter whom Republican Mitt Romney finally taps as his vice presidential nominee, Democrats will accuse this person of crimes against common decency and fairness. This person will, you can bet, be indicted as someone hellbent on "dismantling" Social Security, sacrificing Medicare to the gods of social Darwinism and "slashing" the safety net into worthless tatters.
If that's the case, why not pick a politician who actually speaks about reforming entitlement programs in a serious way? Someone who has actually come up with some ideas that reach beyond platitude? Rep. Paul Ryan, who was spotted pushing a frail wheelchair-bound elderly woman off a cliff in a political ad last year, is really the only person on the shortlist we keep hearing about who fits the bill.
Obama strategist David Axelrod has already written that Ryan, like Romney, has "a conviction that our future will be brighter if we simply pass even bigger tax cuts for the wealthy; dramatically shift health care costs from Medicare to seniors, and walk away from our national commitments to education, research and development, and new energy technology."
Rest assured David Axelrod is going to regurgitate the exact same nonsense no matter whom Romney picks.
Some in the GOP also view Ryan as a liability, and the hand-wringing over his tepid budget is a sad testament to the future of fiscally responsible government. Ryan's plans still would have Washington running a $287 billion annual deficit, and they would increase government spending by about 35 percent over 10 years. That, sadly enough, is what passes for bravery these days.
On the other hand, Ryan also champions a voucher-style reform and other ideas that are excellent starting points. If there is any time to champion free market ideas on that front, it's before Obamacare is codified. His budget may be wrong, but it's a lot less wrong than, say, Obama's proposed budget, which would add $11 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years.
And it's doubtful he would hurt the ticket. Any retired Floridians who believe that pinstripe-suited goons are about to seize the 1 percent return they're making on Social Security will never shed that gullibility. Right now, though, working Americans are paying more in Social Security taxes than they will receive in benefits when they retire. That's what matters.
Of course, the veep pick is perhaps the most overvalued decision of a presidential race. Put it this way: If the vice president had any effect on your chances, Obama would be down 20 points by now. Ryan, though, would add a measure of number-crunching earnestness to a campaign (and then, more importantly, should it happen, to an administration) that lives on broad strokes.