AUGUSTA, Maine — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to be his running mate elicited one of the most tepid responses in recent history, according to the Gallup polling service.
In a one-day Gallup poll conducted Sunday, more Americans characterized Ryan’s addition to the GOP ticket as “only fair or poor” than “excellent or pretty good.” Forty-two percent of those polled called the choice “only fair or poor.” Thirty-nine percent deemed it “excellent or pretty good.” Of the 1,006 adults polled for the USA Today/Gallup survey, 19 percent offered no opinion.
Only George H.W. Bush’s choice of Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle as his vice presidential nominee in 1988 garnered a higher negative response in immediate polling, according to Gallup. Initial polling in response to Quayle’s selection showed 52 percent of those polled rated him “only fair or poor” as a vice presidential nominee. However, the positive response to Quayle — 44 percent — was higher than Ryan’s.
Four years ago, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, GOP presidential nominee John McCain’s choice as running mate, drew a 46 percent “positive or pretty good” rating and a 37 percent “only fair or poor” response.
Vice President Joe Biden, who is expected to remain on the ticket as President Barack Obama seeks re-election, generated an initial response of 47 percent “excellent or pretty good” to 33 percent “only fair or poor.”
Dating back to 1988, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s pick of then-Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina scored the highest positive rating at 64 percent. Quayle drew the highest negative polling figure, followed now by Ryan.
A strong majority — 66 percent — of those polled say that Ryan’s selection won’t affect how they vote in November. Of those who might be affected by the choice, 17 percent said they are more likely to vote for a Romney-Ryan ticket while 12 percent said the choice made them less inclined to cast ballots for the Republican standard bearers.
Only 23 percent of those who identified themselves as independent voters told pollsters that they have a favorable impression of Ryan. Seventeen percent shared an unfavorable rating, and 41 percent fell into the “never heard of him” category. The remaining 21 percent offered no opinion of him.
With a separate Gallup survey showing higher interest in the election among Republicans than Democrats nationally, the GOP can find positives in the fact that 39 percent of Republicans at this point consider Ryan to be an “excellent” choice. “That compares with 34 percent of Republicans calling Sarah Palin an excellent choice in August 2008 and 18 percent rating Dick Cheney excellent in July 2000,” Lydia Saad wrote for Gallup.
Initial reaction from Maine’s political establishment to Ryan’s selection broke expectedly along party lines. Republicans praised him. Democrats ripped him. Most political observers place Maine squarely in Obama’s corner. Palin visited Maine fairly late in the 2008 campaign, but Obama and Biden carried the state.
This year, both campaigns seem far more focused on neighboring New Hampshire, which went for Obama in 2008 but is considered a critical swing state this year, after voters there in 2010 demonstrated a sharp swing to the right in giving Republicans significant majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. The Obama campaign on Monday announced that the president intends to visit New Hampshire on Saturday. It will mark his fourth visit to the Granite State within the past year. First lady Michelle Obama and Biden also have stumped in New Hampshire recently.
“It is often noted that Americans vote for president, not vice president, so it is unclear how much views of Ryan will matter come Nov. 6,” Saad wrote. “George H.W. Bush won handily in 1988 despite voters’ significant doubts about Quayle; and John Kerry and Bob Dole both lost despite the initially warm public reactions to their respective running mates, Edwards and Kemp.”