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Politics

Now What for Paul Ryan?

November 13, 2012 - 6:00pm

The National Journal released a poll this week that contained even more bad news for Paul Ryan, vice presidential candidate who failed to deliver Wisconsin for Mitt Romney on Election Day.

The National Journal Political Insiders pollshows that only 9 percent of Republican leaders surveyed think Ryan would be the strongest presidential candidate in 2016. That puts Ryan in a tie with Rick Santorum for third, far below Marco Rubio who led the poll with 40 percent and Jeb Bush who placed second with 27 percent.

Powerful Democrats think even less of Ryan. While 47 percent of them say Bush would be the strongest Republican candidate and 28 percent say Chris Christie would be, only 1 percent think Ryan would prove the toughest challenge in 2016.

Political elites have several reasons for lowering Ryans stock. Not only did Ryan fail to deliver Wisconsin for Romney, the Republican ticket didn't even have enough coattails to propel Tommy Thompson -- elected governor of Wisconsin four times before serving in George W. Bushs Cabinet -- ahead of Democrat Tammy Baldwin in a U.S. Senate contest.

Besides running for vice president, Ryan also sought an eighth term in Congress on Election Day. Ryan won, taking 55 percent while his Democratic opponent pulled 43 percent of the vote. But even on that front, Ryan is losing ground. He pulled more than 60 percent in every previous congressional bid except when he was first elected in 1998 with 57 percent of the vote.

Ryan, who is 42, was supposed to help lure younger voters to the Republican ticket. Once again, he failed to deliver. Of voters under 30, which constituted 19 percent of the total electorate, only 36 percent backed Romney while 60 percent of them voted for Obama. Adding Ryan to the ticket didnt help Romney in the slightest with young voters.

As one GOP consultant quipped, "Paul Ryan is one of the youngest fuddy-duddies in Congress. Did we really think he was going to connect with the kids?"

Despite having failed in his assignments, Romney offered kind words for Ryan in his concession speech on Election Night and hinted that his running mate would remain a force in national politics.

I want to thank Paul Ryan for all he has done for our campaign and for our country, Romney said. Besides my wife, Ann, Paul is the best choice I've ever made. And I trust that his intellect and his hard work and his commitment to principle will continue to contribute to the good of our nation.

But there remain major obstacles to Ryans national ambitions. With Ryan continuing to chair the House Budget Committee, hell be a major player when Congress attempts in coming weeks to prevent America from going over the fiscal cliff. Ryan will face tough choices, including major spending cuts and raising taxes, and his decisions and actions will receive a great deal of attention. He could alienate moderates or conservatives, depending on what he does.

Ryan will also find it hard to overcome the stigma of being on a losing ticket. Only FDR has managed to lose as a vice presidential candidate and bounce back to win a presidential election. Think of the politicians who have found that row too tough to hoe: John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, Bob Dole, Sarge Shriver and Ed Muskie, among them.

Ryan has a base of conservative admirers, that's true. Nonetheless, hell have a hard time winning the Republican presidential nomination after his setbacks in 2012.

Add to that the fact that he's more than a little stymied at home. In Wisconsin he has to climb the mountain of fellow Republicans Scott Walker as governor and Ron Johnson in the Senate, meaning the next time he can run for a higher office would be to challenge Tammy Baldwin in 2018.

Ryan could remain a force in Congress for years to come. Certainly his admirers are hoping for that. On the other hand, at only 42, he is starting already to look like an electoral has-been.

Jeff Henderson, a freelance political writer, wrote this piece specially for Sunshine State News.

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