Was Paul Ryan doing a Palin? Could it be that the youthful Republican vice-presidential nominee – he of the choirboy looks, squeaky-clean image and deficit-cutting zealotry – was breaking the shackles of a losing campaign, just as a former governor of Alaska was accused of doing in another struggling Republican campaign, in 2008?
The fuss erupted with a jokey column yesterday by Roger Simon, the excellent columnist of the website Politico, who conjured images of a liberated Ryan referring to his boss as "Stench" – as in "If Stench calls, take a message" or "Tell Stench I'm having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later." Ms Noonan by the way is a former Reagan speechwriter who now writes for The Wall Street Journal and has been a trenchant critic of Mr Romney.
Mr Simon's flight of fantasy had been in turn inspired by Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, who told The New York Times at the weekend that if President Obama wins in November, and if Mr Ryan wants to run for national office again, "he'll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him."
... For the record, Mr Robinson, the originator of the stench word, said yesterday that he had been quoted correctly. He was referring however not to Mr Romney in person, but to the problem for his running mate of having been associated with a losing campaign. Which is indeed a problem – but not an insuperable one. Indeed, if the Republicans fail in November, Mr Ryan may yet win credit as having done his best for an unwinnable cause. What would doom his prospects is going rogue. For proof, consider the fate of Sarah Palin.