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Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.

Bagley: Some months ago you rated Romney's chances of beating Obama as slim. Still think so?

Lambson: The popular vote seems to be very close. It remains to be seen how much of that is the transitory convention bounce. I still expect Obama to win, but a lot can happen in 70 days.

Bagley: I have the feeling that the event that decides this election hasn't happened yet. Like, for instance, Ron Paul may decide to run. The Republican establishment seemed determined to alienate Paul's supporters at the convention.

Lambson: They certainly did. I would be surprised if Ron Paul ran, though. My sense is that he believes he can do more for his cause as a Republican. Running an independent campaign, especially if it cost the Republicans the election, would make it even less likely that he could have any influence in the Republican Party. Some of Paul's supporters will vote for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, or stay home. Enough to decide the election? Probably not.

Bagley: You must be happy with Romney's pick for veep, Paul Ryan: He's a true believer in small government and the power of unfettered markets.

Lambson: Like most of the nation, I didn't know much about Paul Ryan. I do like his rhetoric and he seems to be consistent over time. It is not clear what his real role would be in a Romney administration, though. Vice presidents usually seem to be marginalized.

Bagley: I've been aware of Ryan for a while. He's an attractive guy who sounds reasonable; listening to him one could almost believe that turning our children over to corporate slavery would be a good thing. He's also a real story-teller. One of the big news items to come out of the recently concluded GOP convention was the earnestly delivered whoppers, distortions and half-truths that Ryan packed into his 25-minute speech to the delegates. Before you say "everyone does it," even the fact-checkers were in awe of Ryan's brazenness.—election.html?_esi=1

Lambson: Corporate slavery? I remember when you used to mock me for talking like that! Not being a fan of either party, I don't have a dog in this fight so I hadn't paid much attention to Ryan's speech. Now I have. CBS news focused on six points: To call these lies is disingenuous at best. There is not space here for me to address the points, but I am sure there will be plenty of give and take all over the Internet on it, not to mention among our readers.

Lambson: This week's Top Comment is from Nungwa:

"Afghanistan is not a winnable war. Never has been. Probably never will be. Sending our young men and women there to die for a cause that the people of Afghanistan don't want to resolve is not a productive use of our forces. It is long past time for us to give up the notion that we are the world's police force.

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