Asked Tuesday why he lost his home county and home town of Janesville, Wis., in the election, former GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan chalked it up to the fact that more voters came to view him as “Paul Ryan, Republican” rather than “Paul Ryan, Janesville guy” following his ascension to the national party ticket.
“Well, as you know, Janesville is a very Democratic town, but I’m a Republican,” Ryan explained to interviewer Stan Milam on Janesville-based WCLO radio station. “But I’ve always done well here because more people saw me not as a Republican but just as a Janesville guy. When you join the national ticket for a party, you become more seen as a Republican guy than necessarily a Janesville guy. And so, I think my image, or the thought most people had in their mind of me once I joined the Republican ticket was more ‘Paul Ryan, Republican’ than ‘Paul Ryan, Janesville guy.’”
He added: “I still ran something like nine, ten points ahead of other Republicans in the county or in the city. Nevertheless, I think when you join a Republican ticket, it makes you more of an – people identify more with a party than as yourself, which has not been the case with me for most of my career.”
In the wide-ranging interview – one of several that Ryan has sat down for in recent days in the wake of his and runningmate Mitt Romney’s loss last Tuesday – Ryan also reiterated his belief that President Obama won due to “record turnout in urban areas.”
He dismissed the suggestion that he is the Republican Party’s leader, arguing that he is “one of the party’s leaders” and that the GOP has “a decentralized leadership because there are a lot of great leaders in our party.”
And he noted that he has House Speaker John Bohener’s (R-Ohio) confidence and expects to continue on as House Budget Committee chairman. Ryan will need to be granted a waiver from party leadership to override House GOP term-limit rules if he is to remain in the spot.
“He and I have already spoken about this,” Ryan said of Boehner. “And so we’ve already talked about not only continuing on as budget chair but just – you know, our conversations have more gone into how do we fix the problem we have? That’s where our mind is right now.”
Asked to preview the lame duck session’s negotiations on the upcoming “fiscal cliff,” Ryan said that he believe there won’t be another commission such as last year’s debt-reduction “supercommittee” – on which Ryan declined to serve -- or the bipartisan group led by former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, against whose recommendations Ryan voted as a member of the panel.
“I don’t think we’re going to have another commission like a Bowles-Simpson commission,” he said. “I think the best way to get the best outcome is to make Congress do its job and work. When you do these commissions, it’s basically an acknowledgment that Congress can’t do anything and that you need to kick it to a commission. I’ve never liked that idea.”
He added: “I think members of Congress are elected to solve the country’s problems. And they need to do that. And so I think we’ll go what they call ‘regular order.’ Now, as chairman of the Budget Committee, that means I have a central role in that. And I believe I’ll be playing that central role on that.”
As both parties continue to do battle over reforming entitlement programs, the federal tax code and other issues, Ryan said hat he believes “it’s too premature to know what a compromise will look like.”
He maintained that “it’s not a political comment whether a person’s tax rates should go up or down -- it’s an economic point, which is, we don’t want to raise tax rates on successful small businesses because that’s where most of our jobs come from.”
And on which loopholes Republicans might back closing in the tax negotiations, Ryan renewed the argument that Romney made during the campaign in favor of a dollar-figure cap on deductions rather than on specifying the deductions themselves.
“Well, Mitt gave you a sense of it in some of the debates, which is you can give people a certain number to have deductions -- say, $20,000 of deductions or something like that -- and you limit it that way so people can decide what deductions they want for themselves, but you limit it in a way that denies higher income people the massive amounts of deductions that they’ve had in the past,” he said.
“And so, I’ve always thought that’s a smarter way to go, which is, if you’re a person who has a big mortgage, or you give a lot to charity, or you have savings for retirement, you choose where your deductions ought to go for your life. But you should limit the amount of those deductions to primarily middle-income taxpayers and lower, and limit it away from higher-income individuals. So the way I’ve always approached this in my mind is not exactly what kinds of deductions there are but who gets them.”