Paul Ryan: Once All Systems Go, Now GOP Nowhere Man
Around the State
Paul Ryan is supposed to be one of the rising stars of the Republican Party. But the Wisconsin congressman who leads the House Budget Committee and was Mitt Romney’s running mate last year is increasingly looking like an afterthought in the 2016 presidential race.
A week ago Ryan took fifth place in a presidential straw poll held at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Ryan finished far behind U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who won the contest and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who came in a close second. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who placed second behind Romney in the 2012 Republican primaries, came in third. Gov. Chris Christie who, unlike Ryan, was not even invited to speak at CPAC, beat out the Wisconsin congressman for fourth place.
Ryan’s poor showing in the straw poll and mediocre reviews of his speech at CPAC made Politico list him as one of the big losers of the event.
Adding insult to injury, a poll released last week by Rasmussen Reports finds that Ryan’s popularity has dramatically waned since Romney tapped him as his running mate back in August. The poll of likely voters shows Ryan is seriously upside down. Only 35 percent of those surveyed have a favorable view of him, while 54 percent see him unfavorably.
The poll shows Ryan attracts fierce opposition. Almost a quarter of those surveyed -- 23 percent -- have a very unfavorable view of Ryan. He doesn't muster that much enthusiasm in general, with only 17 percent saying they see him as very favorable. The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on March 14-15 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
But even before flopping at CPAC and the latest bad poll, there were signs that Ryan wasn’t gaining traction for 2016. History shows that defeated vice presidential candidates aren’t in good position for presidential bids and even back in November, political insiders were writing Ryan off in favor of Rubio and other possible Republican presidential candidates.
Complicating matters for Ryan is the emergence of another possible Republican presidential candidate in Wisconsin -- Gov. Scott Walker. After taking on government workers’ unions and becoming the first governor in American history to survive a recall challenge, Walker has emerged as a Republican hero. He is increasingly taking on a national presence with out-of-state appearances, including a speech at CPAC.
The growing buzz that Walker could be a presidential candidate does not help Ryan. Wisconsin simply isn’t large enough to have two favorite sons seeking the Republican nomination. While Walker could face a serious Democratic opponent in 2014, specifically from former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin governor is starting to look more like a rising star for Republicans. The same can’t be said of Ryan who, despite being only 43, could already be a political has-been.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.