Paul Ryan has probably read more books than Sarah Palin, but they’re both cut from the same far-right cloth. Nate Silver is probably right; Romney wouldn’t pick Ryan if he felt that he was sitting pretty with his base and positioned strongly for the upcoming election. Ryan is a pick designed to reassure conservatives yet again that Romney really, truly is one of them. Solidifying the base may be a good strategy in a close election, but Ryan’s plans for scaling back entitlements may give independents pause.
I doubt Ryan will do much to sway the election; people vote for a president, not their running mates. The debate between Biden and Ryan could be interesting, though. It will be the aw-shucks youthful reactionary versus the garrulous old-school liberal.