Observers say Paul Ryan now a frontrunner for 2016 GOP nomination

2012-11-07T06:25:00Z 2012-11-12T17:01:43Z Observers say Paul Ryan now a frontrunner for 2016 GOP nominationMATTHEW DeFOUR | Wisconsin State Journal | mdefour@madison.com | 608-252-6144 madison.com

Fourteen years ago, Paul Ryan embarked on his first race for Congress as a political unknown from Janesville whose youth and inexperience inspired even some Republicans to question his future.

"He doesn't have a chance," said Republican primary challenger George Petak, a former state senator, at the time. "He's just a kid."

Ryan's turn as a vice presidential candidate — the first by a Wisconsinite on a major party ticket — ended in a loss Tuesday, but observers say the Janesville Republican established himself as a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

"Being a vice presidential candidate, even on a losing ticket, tends to elevate people into the ranks of presidential contenders," said Joel Goldstein, a St. Louis University law professor and expert on the vice presidency.

Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday that despite the results "Paul Ryan's credibility is as strong, if not stronger, than it was when he joined the race."

Ryan easily won re-election to an eighth term in Congress, and with Republicans maintaining control of the House he is expected to continue his influential role as budget committee chairman.

"His influence has grown over the past four months," said Bob Kasten, Wisconsin's former U.S. senator who hired Ryan as an aide out of college. "He now is the most important legislator. More important than any legislator or senator with regard to impact on budget and fiscal decisions."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's selection of Ryan — a young, photogenic fiscal expert from a key swing state — as his running mate in August excited party conservatives who considered Romney too moderate.

But Ryan had his stumbles, Goldstein said. In his GOP convention speech Ryan linked President Barack Obama to the closing of the Janesville General Motors plant, which happened before Obama took office. In an interview he exaggerated a marathon time by more than an hour. And he was linked through past legislation he sponsored to a controversial statement by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin about "forcible rape."

Ryan's budget proposals for retooling Medicare may have dampened Romney's support, but not as much as some had predicted, Goldstein said.

"I don't think they're going to say Ryan hurt (Romney)," he said. "In some ways Romney has been more successful than people thought he would be" given controversy over Ryan's budget plans.

Few representatives gain the national stature Ryan did during the campaign and none have been elected president since James Garfield in 1880.

Should he decide to seek the presidency in 2016, Ryan would fare well in a primary because of his conservative bona fides, said Laurel Harbridge, an assistant political science professor at Northwestern University and expert on Congress.

"Ryan has to do less to make that case than (2008 GOP presidential nominee Sen. John) McCain or Romney did," Harbridge said.

And he would enter the 2016 election cycle better known by voters than other GOP hopefuls, said Barry Burden, a UW-Madison political science professor.

In Janesville over the last few months, Ryan cast a proud glow over his struggling hometown, where most people know him simply as "Paul."

On Tuesday morning, Ryan voted with his family at the public library on Main Street, trailed by a phalanx of television cameras and reporters and eventually returning to his nearby house in a black sport-utility vehicle. The national attention seemed surreal to many voters.

"I never really thought it would be a hometown person," said Kathy Kurtz as she walked from the library under an umbrella. Her son-in-law, Tony Huml, went to grade school and high school with Ryan and introduced her to the congressman at St. Mary's Catholic Church shortly after his first election, which happened in 1998 when he was just 28 years old.


State Journal reporters Dan Simmons and Dee J. Hall contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(24) Comments

  1. Jean-Sartre
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    Jean-Sartre - November 07, 2012 2:17 pm
    I disagree with the narrative here.

    Please give me the name of ONE person who ran for VP, was not elected, and returned to run and win a Presidential Election?

    Secondly, Ryan hurt himself here... further, he is time barred from being the Chairman of the Budget Committee, and his current term ends on Dec. 31, 2012.

    So, what is it that he is going to be doing?
  2. mequondoctorrob
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    mequondoctorrob - November 07, 2012 1:09 pm
    Ryan just ran a campign where he lost the women's, black's, hispanics's and Asian vote all by double digits- I can't think of anything the Dems would want more.
  3. concerned_citizen
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    concerned_citizen - November 07, 2012 10:44 am
    too bad his tenuous grasp on reality is obfuscated by an Ayn Randian belief system.
  4. poochie2
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    poochie2 - November 07, 2012 10:14 am
    I am curious about the following: 1) if Obama outpolled Romney/Ryan in Ryan's district and 2) Ryan outpolled the Democratic contender for the Congressional seat. Some or many Obama supporters also voted for Ryan? Would love to hear from people who voted this way, presidential/congressional district, and explain their rationale. I would think that if you voted for Obama/Biden over Romney/Ryan the logical consistency would be to vote for Zerban over Ryan, unless there were overwhelming good reasons for voting against Zerban?
  5. Weirdwise
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    Weirdwise - November 07, 2012 8:53 am
    OH was closer than WI, so you have to ask if Rob Portman may not have been a better choice than Paul Ryan. But, with the outcomes in VA & FL, OH alone would not have changed the result.

    GOP has got to move left to hope to win a national election in the future, just as Dems had to move right after McGovern. The bases don't like it, but have few options unless a Perot or Nader spoiler f*** things up for them.
  6. bookman21
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    bookman21 - November 07, 2012 8:34 am
    The one thing that the GOP should learn from this historic election is that taking a position to the right of Mussoiini and declaring war on women doesn't fly. Paul Ryan is the poster boy for both mistakes.
  7. spooky tooth
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    spooky tooth - November 07, 2012 7:53 am
    Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and now Paul Ryan?
  8. ShoePolishHead
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    ShoePolishHead - November 07, 2012 7:22 am
    Ryan will have to stop being a sky is falling obstructionist if he wants to be president.
  9. bobjoe
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    bobjoe - November 07, 2012 6:52 am
    bye bye eddie
  10. Nav
    Report Abuse
    Nav - November 07, 2012 6:37 am
    Imagine three Biden/Ryan debates in 2012. Run Paul Ryan! LOL
  11. Muffi
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    Muffi - November 07, 2012 6:37 am
    Ryan doesn't even go over well in Wisconsin, outside his custom gerrymandered district. Once people know Ryan and his beliefs, they oppose him.
  12. Muffi
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    Muffi - November 07, 2012 6:35 am
    Ryan is no fiscal expert. He's a smug, arrogant, entitled poser who's made a flimsy slide presentation of an imaginary fiscal scenario where none of the numbers add up.
    One word describes him and his program: scrooge.

    He's full of himself and hot air. He presents himself as this "serious economic wonk" to puff himself up like an eagle, and he comes off looking like a turkey.

    I'm very happy that we dodged the Lyin' Ryan duo, as I shudder to contemplate Ryan one mishap away from the Presidency.

  13. DaneCounty
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    DaneCounty - November 07, 2012 6:26 am
    Please do run Ryan in 2016. It will it make it nice and easy for a Dem win.
  14. Ronnie_P
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    Ronnie_P - November 07, 2012 5:58 am
    If they want to lose again by all means run Paul Ryan. What was his marathon time again?
  15. Nav
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    Nav - November 07, 2012 5:43 am
    Paul Ryan to run for President in 2016? Really? Paul Ryan could not deliver his own state for Romney this year. His far right views are not popular with the Americn people, and he runs for President in 2016, he will be soundly defeated!

    The future of the Republican party is with the moderates, not extremists like Paul Ryan.
  16. spare001
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    spare001 - November 07, 2012 1:54 am
    I'm a republican, and I hope they don't put him up. I don't think he goes over so well with other parts of the country.
  17. JakeWeery
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    JakeWeery - November 07, 2012 1:30 am
    Good grief, please give it a rest!
  18. wrkrbee1
    Report Abuse
    wrkrbee1 - November 07, 2012 1:20 am
    Ferobson, the only thing you said true is that abortion has no place in govt, which is exactly why your argument is weak. Pro-life, pro-choice, doesn't matter. It's social issues that detract us from what is the true and sole purpose of government. If someone wants to have an abortion,fine, but keep my taxpayer dollars away from it.
  19. ferobson
    Report Abuse
    ferobson - November 07, 2012 12:39 am
    Ryan in '16? He can dodge but he cannot hide some of the ridiculous far right religious based positions with which he has saddled himself. It was perhaps the electorate tonight who proclaimed that neither the Pope or Billy Graham should try and run rough shod over our secular form of government. Together with the two idiots in Indiana/Missouri, Ryan will need to disguise much better his radical pro-life palaver which has no place in the governing of our country.
  20. motherlode
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    motherlode - November 07, 2012 12:07 am
    Please, give it a rest.
  21. tomtom
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    tomtom - November 07, 2012 12:02 am
    and he'll be beat by Hillary Clinton
  22. Tricolor Dog
    Report Abuse
    Tricolor Dog - November 06, 2012 11:04 pm
    I knew Tommy was toast when FOX called it at 9:30. FOX of all networks....
  23. bookman21
    Report Abuse
    bookman21 - November 06, 2012 10:55 pm
    It has been fun watching Faux News. It's fun to watch them squirm. Karl Rove is whining bigtime.
  24. ABunkerSuperPatriot
    Report Abuse
    ABunkerSuperPatriot - November 06, 2012 10:26 pm
    Obama 274, Robme 201. Baldwin surging past drunken tommy.

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