Paul Ryan was in Wisconsin Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday during the week before the election. And he’ll be back again on Monday.
Ultimately, the Republican nominee for vice president will have made more than a half dozen major campaign appearances around his home state in the seven-day period leading up to the November 6 election is done.
The House Budget Committee chairman even stooped to visit his own congressional district, for a high-profile rally at Racine’s Memorial Hall. He then returned to his hometown of Janesville for some trick-or-treating with the kids—which the Republican contender turned into a minor media event, as television camera crews were invited to tag along.
Considering the polls, which suggest that the Romney-Ryan ticket is having a hard time gaining traction in Wisconsin, it’s entirely understandable that the vice presidential nominee from Wisconsin would be putting in some extra time in the state.
But Ryan is also a candidate for re-election to his US House seat representing southeastern Wisconsin’s first congressional district. And he is in a serious race for the seat. To be sure, Ryan retains advantages. He’s never won re-election with under 62 percent of the vote. And thanks to partisan redistricting, the congressman’s district is more relaibly Republican.
But Ryan seems to think he’s in a real race. His re-election committee has poured money into a television advertising campaign that, so far, has cost $2 million. Why? Rob Zerban, a successful businessman and local elected official, is mounting what certainly looks to be the most credible challenge in years to the incumbent.
Zerban has raised a reasonable amount of money—more than Ryan in the most recent quarter—and that’s put him on television in the district.
More importantly, Zerban’s raised all the right questions about the incumbent’s extreme policies and even more extreme reliance on big-money donations from special-interest groups tied to the insurance industry and the Wall Street traders that would benefit most from Ryan’s schemes to radically restructure Medicare and Medicaid while beginning the process of privatizing Social Security.
Zerban has run as a progressive in the Wisconsin tradition, calling out the incumbent for his ties to special interests, and calling for real reform of the campaign system—as an advocate for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
The two men could have a great debate.
Unfortunately, while Ryan is more than willing to spend piles of money to fend off the challenge from Zerban, the congressman is unwilling to debate the most credible challenger he has ever faced in a re-election race.
Ryan has more than enough time to attend fund-raising events in Wisconsin and other states.
Ryan has more than enough time for rallies and photo opportunities.
But supposedly he does not have enough time to debate his opponent, and to offer his congressional-district constituents an honest accounting of his positions.
Ryan’s refusal to debate has clarified issues going into Tuesday’s election. Voters have the option of re-electing a career politician, Ryan, who seeks the congressional seat as a way to hedge bets if his national ambitions are dashed. Or they could elect a new congressman, Zerban, who says he’s ready and willing to participate in hometown debates, to listen to voters and to represent them.