Paul Ryan’s proven pretty appealing to the GOP base in his first week on the campaign trail as Mitt Romney’s running mate. He draws big crowds and keeps them interested by hitting all the right notes — including the kind of jabs at President Obama for using a teleprompter Romney’s been unable to make.
Over the last three days, Ryan’s made the exact same teleprompter joke at least three times. The formula is simple: As Ryan is talking about Obama and the changes coming under a Romney-Ryan administration, someone in the audience yells out that Ryan’s using no teleprompter. He acknowledges the supporter, repeats the joke and everyone has a good laugh. Here’s a reel by TPM video wrangler Michael Lester:
Prompter jokes have been an old standby among conservatives for most of the Obama’s time in office, reaching a fever pitch in early 2010 when a viral photograph of Obama using a set of teleprompters for a policy speech he gave at a school was taken out of context to suggest Obama needs a script to speak coherently.
The joke rolled on through the years after getting a boisterous renaissance during the Republican presidential primaries, when most of the candidates mocked Obama for using prompters. As cataloged by National Journal, Rick Santorum called Obama “the reader-in-chief,” and Newt Gingrich often used a quip about Obama’s prompters while challenging him to his famous series of Lincoln-Douglass-style debates.
The fun came to an end when Romney emerged as the presumptive nominee. Not only does Romney employ prompters often himself, he actually defended Obama’s use of them in off-camera footage given to Gawker by the short-lived Fox News mole.
“It does make some sense,” Romney told Fox’s Sean Hannity in the footage. “It keeps you from saying something you don’t mean, you get the message out.”
The value of the prompter was on full display last weekend when Ryan emerged from the USS Wisconsin battleship in Norfolk, Va., to stand with Romney for the first time. Perhaps unfamiliar with the stump speech he was debuting, Ryan appeared to follow Romney’s lead and use a prompter (as well as notes) to give his remarks.
Ryan comes in at around the 10:30 mark:
It was hard for Romney to make a prompter joke, leaving a big piece of the conservative anit-Obama rhetorical repertoire off the list while he was the only guy running. But Ryan has revived the joke, probably for the long haul of the campaign.