Barack Obama on Paul Ryan

At a fund raising event in Chicago yesterday, President Obama said of Paul Ryan: “I know him. I welcome him into the race. He’s a decent man, a family man, an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney’s vision. . .a vision I fundamentally disagree with.” Sounding the same theme with less elegance, David Axelrod added on CNN that Ryan “is quite extreme — good, good person, you know, genial person — but his views are quite harsh.”

Can we read anything into these statements other than the obvious — that Obama and his crew are trying to sound generous while playing up the theme that this election is a choice between competing visions, not a referendum on the economy?

Perhaps not. But the nature of Obama’s praise of Ryan suggests that he senses in Ryan some basic, personal appeal that can’t be denied, and therefore should be stipulated to. It’s what a trial lawyer might do when he knows the jury will like a witness whose testimony he will have to ask it to reject.

Team Obama’s sense of Paul Ryan is consistent not only with my impression of the man, but also with buzz I’ve heard that Ryan appeals to women voters — which, I assume, means mostly married white women voters. Just as with a jury, these are important folks to have on your side in an election.

We know that with the Ryan pick, Romney targets the states of Wisconsin and Iowa, where Ryan will be today. But what kinds of voters does Romney target? Certainly white blue collar voters throughout the midwest and in Pennsylvania. But perhaps also their wives, as well as other suburban women.

Obama is well-advised to tell these voters, in effect, I know you’re going to like this guy and it’s understandable that you will — I kind of like him to. But keep your eye on the ball — he and Mitt Romney have bad things in store for you.

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