This patch of southern Ohio between Cincinnati and Dayton is not the up-for-grabs Ohio you’ve read so much about. This is decided country, where House Speaker John Boehner is running for re-election unopposed, where “Defeat Obama” and “Romney/Ryan” lawn signs glisten in the chilly drizzle.
At the heart of it is a university whose students, according to a poll by the campus paper, favor Romney by 49 percent to 40 percent, and tend to think, as one senior half-joked, “that Sean Hannity is the news.” This is clearly not the place to gauge the last-minute mood swings of a state that many consider decisive.
It is, however, an interesting place to ponder the governing mentality of a Romney/Ryan administration, if that is what voters deliver on Tuesday. Miami University, a pretty grid of red brick, lawns and autumn foliage, is the place where Paul Ryan’s view of the world jelled, under the tutelage of an economist he describes as his mentor. I decided to spend my last column before the election peeking through this little window into the Republican id. If Mitt Romney is our next president, many in the party hope Ryan will play the role of chief ideologist. And if Romney loses, Ryan starts the 2016 campaign for his party’s nomination near the front of the line.
Ryan’s alma mater draws mostly white, upper-middle-class students from Midwest Republican families that are attracted to Miami as a place unlikely to turn their children against them. A well-endowed business school (Ryan majored in economics and political science) and a robust frat culture (Ryan was an enthusiastic Delta Tau Delta) tend to reinforce the conservative values represented by the Republican ticket — with one important asterisk we’ll get to later. In 2008, many Miami students veered out of character, thrilled by the historic Obama campaign, but now that enthusiasm has given way to disappointment and to something few of these kids have ever experienced: economic anxiety.