Mitt Romney gave up a lot when he picked Paul Ryan.
He gave up his central argument for the presidency -- that business experience is the chief requirement for the job. By picking a career politician he is conceding that yes, maybe you can be an effective leader if you didn't spend your professional life making millions off of workers you fired.
He gave up the notion that he is the candidate for the middle class. By elevating the author of a plan that Newt Gingrich referred to as "right wing social engineering" because of the way it transfers trillions of dollars worth of the tax burden onto the middle class, he's making a big bet that trickle down economics are back.
And he gave up the fight that this would be a referendum on the president. Mitt Romney is unequivocally moving to make this race a choice between two vastly different visions for this country. The president's vision -- which has led to the creation of more than four million jobs in this recovery and an economy that is growing. And Romney's vision -- a plan that actually increases our deficit, devastates Medicare and radically shifts the tax burden onto the middle class with tax cuts for the wealthy.
I don't blame him for abandoning the referendum, it was a race he was clearly losing. And after failing to define himself and his business record and even his time as a governor, he fell behind. By the numbers, he's five points down in the Real Clear Politics average for this race.
But let's take a closer look at what Romney's nominee really wants for our country.
In a race where Romney has made the charge of class warfare against Democrats, he is waging it with this pick. The Ryan Plan would be the largest redistribution of wealth in American history -- trillions in tax breaks for millionaires, paid for by devastating Medicare and dramatically cutting investments in clean energy and education. But even with all these cuts, he protects billions in special tax breaks for the oil industry.
The Ryan Plan would convert Medicare into a voucher system. Instead of guaranteed benefits, seniors would be given a voucher that declines in value and be on their own to find insurance, costing individual seniors $6,400 a year more. If the Romney-Ryan voucher wasn't enough for quality health care, too bad.
Essentially ending Medicare isn't enough to pay for all of the Romney-Ryan tax breaks for the rich so they also propose undermining virtually every investment in our economic future. Education, from head start to college, would be made unaffordable for millions of middle class families. Investments in research, science and technology would be gutted, making America less competitive. And the clean energy jobs of the future would be shipped to China because Romney and Ryan want to continue tax breaks that benefit the big oil executives bankrolling their campaign.
And, as I noted, even with all these damaging cuts to the middle class, the Romney-Ryan Plan would still increase the debt because of their singular focus to helping millionaires like themselves pay less in taxes.
Finally, while this election will be about which candidate will fight for the economic interests of the middle class, foreign affairs are never far from the minds of voters in unstable times. By selecting a Congressman who also has no foreign policy experience, Romney has guaranteed that the 2012 Republican ticket's combined foreign experience is limited to knowledge of the best places worldwide to avoid taxes and keep secret accounts.
When we started polling and focus groups last year, we saw clearly that Paul Ryan's budget was tremendously toxic. We also learned that it was so radical that voters would not believe that a politician could possibly support it.
That's why we spent the last two months educating voters about Mitt Romney's business background. We wanted to make sure that voters could decide whether a record maximizing profit by firing workers and canceling promised health and pension benefits, would really prepare him to be the kind of president who looked out for the middle class.
We also wanted to build the case that with that business experience, Mitt Romney is exactly the kind of guy who could support the dismantling of Medicare in order to pay for even more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
By actually picking the author of that plan, Romney is all in.
But it's important to note that this pick was one made from a position of weakness. Mitt Romney was losing in every important poll this week. He spent most of his time on defense from his own conservative allies who were threatening to boycott the Republican convention and demanding that he fire his campaign. And he buckled to the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal hoping that by throwing a long pass he might regain the ground he lost in the polls.
The pick was terrible. Even so, Karl Rove and his right wing allies will still have hundreds of millions of dollars to lie about President Obama and to distort the truth about the Ryan Plan and how it would devastate the middle class.
It is still a tough economic environment for the president and this race will still be close. All of those polls that showed Romney losing ground still showed that this race is extraordinarily tight.
But the stage is set and Mitt Romney has made the choice crystal clear.