Paul Ryan, the loser with a future

WASHINGTON Wed Nov 7, 2012 11:54am IST

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan leaves a campaign plane during the U.S. presidential election in Richmond, Virginia November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan leaves a campaign plane during the U.S. presidential election in Richmond, Virginia November 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Paul Ryan may have taken a punch. But Tuesday night was far from a definitive blow for Mitt Romney's hard-driving presidential running mate, a veteran of Congress who according to one admirer is "just getting started."

History hasn't been kind to losing vice presidential candidates. Only two have gone on to become presidents themselves. The last two failed running mates were Sarah Palin and John Edwards - one went on to a reality television show, the other's personal life turned out to be fit for a soap opera.

No one expects Ryan to have a similar fate. In fact, Ryan actually won when the dust settled. Still only 42, he was easily reelected by voters in his southern Wisconsin district to represent them in Congress for the eighth time.

Ryan returns to the House of Representatives a larger figure. And even if 2016 feels distant right now, he will be quickly and insistently prodded about his own presidential ambitions.

BACK TO WASHINGTON, STATURE ENHANCED

When Romney picked him as his running mate in August, Ryan was already a leading member of Congress and a darling of conservative columnists and activists in Washington for his fiscal conservatism. The presidential race introduced him to thousands of voters, hundreds of state leaders, and the party's most generous donors.

His re-entry into daily politics in Washington comes as Congress enters a furious period of negotiations over averting a "fiscal cliff" - a series of expiring tax cuts and pending spending cuts that could push the United States back into recession if Congress cannot reach a deal by January 1.

Now, Ryan's status as House Budget committee chairman will be joined with a new political celebrity, giving the author of the Republicans' fiscal plans an even greater hand in directing the debate.

At the time of his selection by Romney, Ryan was a familiar figure to only 35 percent of people, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. Today, he is a household name.

Ryan's supporters say the campaign enhanced Ryan's stature. Speaking days before the election, Representative Sean Duffy recalled a warm reception from Democrats when Ryan returned to the chamber's floor this fall.

They say that the campaign reinforced a reputation for truth-telling and open-mindedness, pointing to his speech on Medicare at a convention for the AARP, a lobbying group for older Americans which has backed Obama administration proposals, as a sign of his political courage.

For Democrats and independents, it may be difficult to see Ryan outside the strongly partisan light that a presidential campaign inevitably shines on politicians.

Ryan's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in August, for instance, left liberals irate. Renowned among conservatives for intellectual honesty, critics said Ryan served up political fiction.

"I can't think of a single bipartisan thing he's ever done," said Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.

LEADER OF HIS GENERATION

Ryan had been known as a Republican "young gun" and the campaign cemented his reputation as a leader of his generation in the party.

Romney's loss is bound to provoke soul-searching among Republicans who lost a presidential election despite Obama's vulnerability amid a weak economy. In theory, Ryan is positioned like few other leaders to step into the void.

Yet his place in Congress could prove as much a stumbling block as a platform. It may be difficult for Ryan to assume the leadership of a party that so often bristles with mistrust of Washington's influence.

That may not stop some Republicans from praising Ryan as revolutionary, as Ohio Governor John Kasich did at a recent rally for the losing campaign.

"I've been referring to Paul Ryan as the Paul Revere of the next generation," Kasich said, referring to the American Revolutionary War hero who warned Colonial forces of impending threats from the British.

"I'll tell you he's just getting started," he added.

Whatever he does in the longer term, Ryan may be found sitting extremely quietly in a tree in Wisconsin some time in the coming weeks.

Since last Christmas when he bought his daughter Liza a Remington rifle, the congressman has been preparing to take his oldest child, now 10, on her first deer hunt.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin last week, Ryan told a warehouse full of supporters that he couldn't wait to sit in a deer stand, knowing that Mitt Romney would be inaugurated as president of the United States in January.

After Tuesday's vote, he won't have that to relish. But he still has some hunting to do.

(Reporting By Samuel P. Jacobs; Editing by Frances Kerry, Bernard Orr)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Hong Kong Protests

Hong Kong Protests

Hong Kong protests approach potential National Day flashpoint.  Full Article 

Seeking Reassurance

Seeking Reassurance

Amid differences, Israel's Netanyahu to seek reassurances from Obama on Iran.  Full Article 

Ebola in U.S.

Ebola in U.S.

Traveler from Liberia is first Ebola patient diagnosed in U.S  Full Article 

Fighting IS

Fighting IS

Australian aircraft to support U.S.-led air strikes in Iraq - PM.  Full Article 

Indonesia Politics

Indonesia Politics

President manages hopes as hostile parliament convenes  Full Article 

Security Breach

Security Breach

U.S. lawmakers rebuke Secret Service over White House breach  Full Article 

Palestinian Occupation

Palestinian Occupation

Jewish settlers occupy Palestinian homes in Old City's shadow  Full Article 

Ebola Chronology

Ebola Chronology

Worst Ebola outbreak on record tests global response  Full Article 

Blurring Lines

Blurring Lines

In al Qaeda attack, lines between Pakistan military, militants blur  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage