At the peak of his national prominence, Congressman Paul Ryan’s support in Wisconsin has been tanking.
In 2012, the Janesville Republican lost his home precinct, his hometown, his home county as a candidate for vice president. And he was re-elected to the U.S. House with the lowest margin of his career.
Why? Wisconsinites are getting to know where Ryan stands on the issues. And they are unimpressed.
Ryan got by for years on the basis of family ties and nice-guy image.
But voters don’t think it’s very nice to propose the mangling and dismemberment of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And they don’t think it’s very wise to align with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Ryan has gone to extremes.
And that makes Rob Zerban, the Democrat who in 2012 ran the best race ever against the incumbent, think he might be able to beat Ryan in 2014.
“It’s just totally unbelievable that the incumbent in this district continues to vote to risk the full faith and credit of the United States,” says Zerban. “He continues to vote in favor of crashing the global economy. His commitment to partisanship and ideology is so extreme that he actually voted for the United States to default on our obligations."
Zerban, a successful businessman and local elected official from Kenosha County, may be on to something.
The challenger takes note of a recent survey by Public Policy Polling, which determined that only 48 percent of voters would back Ryan’s re-election run after being informed that he supported a government shutdown.
That’s grounds for hope for Zerban, who announced last week that he would make a second race against Ryan.
Recent events have provided the challenger with an even greater opening than he had in 2012. And Zerban is seizing it with a message that addresses popular outrage over the shutdown -– and over Ryan's decision to join 143 other House Republicans in seeking to maintain it even after a compromise was reached to reopen the government.
“(We) need new leadership in the House,” says the Democrat. “We need leaders that work to avoid catastrophe -– not invite it.”
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org