Voters have 39 percent favorable opinion of Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, according to earlier polling, while 25 percent held a negative review, according to pollster Scott Rasmussen.
Ryan is relatively unknown to the nation at large. Only a third of voters have a strong opinion in either direction.
Wisconsin is a state both sides consider key to the presidential election. Right now, President Barack Obama has a modest 3-point lead over Romney in the state, and it remains a toss-up in the Rasmussen Reports Electoral College Projections.
Rasmussen has explained why Romney’s roll-out of his vice presidential pick is as important as the choice itself.
“Most Americans will learn all they know about the new name on the ticket during the week the candidate is introduced,” he wrote in a recent newspaper column. While 69 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Ryan, 42 percent of voters unaffiliated with either major political party have no opinion of him one way or the other at this point.
Generally, the impact of a vice presidential candidate on the election results is overstated. People typically vote for the top of the ticket.
However, some view the selection process as a way of gauging the thoughts of the presidential nominee. If the choice of Ryan is seen as a signal that Romney is serious about cutting federal spending, it could be a plus for the Republican's campaign.
Sixty-six percent of voters believe that the best thing the government could do to help the economy is to cut spending. This could set an interesting contrast with the Obama team, since most Americans think the president is likely to increase government spending.
On the other hand, if the move is seen as a further embrace of Ryan’s positions on Medicare, it could be a negative. Prior to the release of Ryan’s budget plan, Republicans had a 14-point advantage over Democrats on the healthcare issue. Following release of that plan, the parties were evenly divided.
Rasmussen addressed this issue in another newspaper column and suggested that putting consumers in charge was the only way to fix the health care system.
Many had speculated that Romney would choose a safe option for his running mate, someone perhaps like former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who would add little buzz but likely do no harm. The choice of Ryan is a bolder pick with both upside and downside potential. That boldness may itself be a message to conservatives who remain skeptical of Romney.