At St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Racine, Wisconsin, Gregg Brack contemplates how he’ll show his support in tomorrow’s election for Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee he considers the state’s favorite son.
As Brack helped organize a free breakfast Nov. 1 for about 100 people, the church member and self-described independent voter said he’ll back President Barack Obama. At the same time, Brack said he’ll vote to return Ryan, who appears twice on the ballot in southeastern Wisconsin, to the U.S. House. Ryan is from nearby Janesville.
“I like the guy, and I think he may very well be the next possible Republican choice for president,” Brack, who co-owns a small local trucking company, said of Ryan. “I like what he’s done. But I think his presidential ticket is going to come up a bit short.”
Brack says he’s voting for Obama because he “truly needs another four years” to turn around the U.S. economy, and Brack doesn’t blame him for being unable to revitalize it in his first term.
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Ryan will win either way on Election Day, vaulting to the vice presidency or returning to a House seat he’s heavily favored to defend. Ryan gives a slight boost to Mitt Romney in Wisconsin, although he probably won’t be able to deliver his home state as Obama is edging ahead, said Tom Holbrook, chairman of the political science department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“If Romney ekes out a win here, it probably will be because Ryan was on the ticket,” he said. “But right now, it’s not looking very likely.”
Recent polls show Obama gaining ground in the state, along with the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Representative Tammy Baldwin, who is in a tight race with former Governor Tommy Thompson, a Republican.
Obama led Romney by 51 percent to 43 percent in an Oct. 25-28 Marquette University Law School survey of 1,243 likely Wisconsin voters. That was up from 49 percent to 48 percent two weeks earlier. The most recent poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
In the Senate race, the Marquette poll showed Baldwin narrowly leading Thompson, 47 percent to 43 percent.
In a congressional district of rolling farmland south of Milwaukee, stretching from Janesville eastward to the small cities of Racine and Kenosha on the shore of Lake Michigan, Ryan has easily held onto power. He’s been popular even amid the loss of manufacturing jobs, including 2,500 when a General Motors plant closed in his hometown four years ago.
Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, won his most recent election in 2010 with a commanding 68 percent of the vote and hasn’t dipped below 63 percent since his first election in 1998, when he had 57 percent.
His homegrown status and quest to win Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes were on display last week, when the Republican vice presidential nominee led get-out-the-vote events for the Romney ticket in Eau Claire, Green Bay and Racine before taking his family and a Secret Service detail trick-or-treating in Janesville.
“Let’s wake up Wednesday morning knowing we did everything we possibly could, because as we all know, Wisconsin is one of those critical battleground states,” Ryan told cheering supporters at the Green Bay rally.
Wisconsin hasn’t given a Republican presidential candidate a victory since Ronald Reagan carried the state in his 1984 re-election against Democrat Walter Mondale, who won only in his home state of Minnesota. Obama carried Wisconsin in 2008, 56 percent to 42 percent for Republican John McCain.
Ryan’s House candidacy -- and the $4.9 million he has raised for his re-election -- offer dual benefits for the Republican ticket. While he crisscrosses the U.S. as Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin voters view a stream of TV ads for Ryan’s House re-election that blanket about 60 percent of the state’s media market, and which will cost about $2 million by tomorrow’s balloting, according to Ryan’s campaign manager, Kevin Seifert.
Ryan’s opponent is Democrat Rob Zerban, a one-time owner of catering firms and a former Kenosha County Board supervisor, though the ads don’t mention Zerban. They also don’t mention Ryan’s House re-election bid until a disclosure statement at the end. The ads show Ryan talking to constituents about small-government solutions to such issues as health care and job creation.
In one ad he dons safety glasses as he extols the virtues of a simpler tax code while meeting with factory workers.
“Hard-working taxpayers like you deserve a common-sense tax code: Simpler, fairer and lower tax rates to make America more competitive,” he said.
The ads will probably have more sway in the presidential contest than in Ryan’s House race, analysts said.
“This is all about putting the maximum message on the target,” said Ken Goldstein, president of New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks campaign advertising. “Ads don’t have to say, ‘vote for,’ ‘defeat’ or ‘support.’ People know Paul Ryan is on the ticket. It’s more message-ability for the Romney campaign.”
Seifert said the ads aren’t driven by efforts to boost Wisconsin turnout in the presidential race, and were filmed before he was selected as Romney’s running mate on Aug. 11.
“Wisconsin being a battleground state is more coincidental, I guess,” he said.
Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 27, Ryan has spent an estimated $1.1 million on 1,660 ads on broadcast stations and national cable outlets in the Milwaukee and Madison media markets --which reach voters in his district, according to CMAG.
Romney’s presidential campaign has spent an estimated $3.3 million on 6,975 ads in Wisconsin from April 10 to Oct. 27. In that period, Obama’s campaign spent $7 million on 14,580 ads in Wisconsin, CMAG says.
In Ryan’s home district, where Romney-Ryan signs compete in similar numbers with those for Obama-Biden, Democrats say the budget chairman’s positions may be costing the ticket some votes. Republicans faced criticism after the House passed his budget blueprint in 2011 that included a proposal to partially turn Medicare into a voucher system for future recipients.
At the United Auto Workers Local 72 hall in Kenosha, 250 retired UAW members gathered Nov. 1 to prepare for a get-out-the-vote effort for Obama and other Democrats on the ballot.
“Personally, I think he hinders the Republicans,” said Jo Ann Prybylski, a Democrat who worked at a local Chrysler engine plant before it shut down three years ago. She said Ryan’s proposal would leave seniors with higher costs for health care.
Some voters said they think he’s helping Republicans in the state. Outside a Home Depot in Janesville, Republican voter Phillip Addison said Ryan’s dual-ballot status is a motivator for local Republicans and some swing voters.
“He doesn’t want to tie us down with big government like Obama wants to do,” Addison said. “It probably helps Romney to have Ryan on the ticket.”
In running for two offices at once, Ryan joins Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, Lloyd Bentsen and Lyndon B. Johnson as lawmakers who have campaigned for vice president and Congress in the same year. Just as they did, he’s keeping his options open with a dual campaign.
“Win or lose, he comes out of it a winner,” said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Litvan in Janesville, Wisc. at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at Jschneider50@bloomberg.net