Mitt Romney’s decision to select Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential running mate raises the question of what happens in the Badger State’s 1st District, where Ryan is favored to win reelection in the fall. According to state election law, Ryan would not have to sacrifice his spot on the congressional ballot even though he is also running for vice president. He would appear on the ballot twice.
Ryan would appear on the ballot as both a candidate for the House and for vice president. If the Romney-Ryan presidential ticket is not successful, but he wins his congressional race, Ryan can keep his seat. If the national ticket wins the White House and Ryan holds his House seat, a special election would be held to replace him in the House.
“If the candidate is elected president or vice president of the United States such election shall void the candidate’s election to any other office. A special election shall be held to fill any office vacated under this subsection,” reads a state statute on multiple nominations.
The Wisconsin primary election is scheduled to take place next Tuesday. Ryan’s general election opponent is Rob Zerban, a Democrat who has attracted the attention of national party officials but who nonetheless remains a substantial underdog against the House Budget Committee chairman. The $5.4 million Ryan had in his campaign account in late July was about ten times what Zerban had on hand.
Ryan’s popularity in his district has defied his seat’s party lean. President Obama won narrowly there in 2008. However, Ryan has never faced a reelection challenge that has threatened his seat.
State legislator Robin Vos and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus are two names that have been mentioned in media reporting as possible Republican replacements for Ryan, should a special election be triggered.
Appearing as both a vice presidential candidate and a congressional one could be a double-edged sword for Ryan. On the one hand, it would afford him even greater visibility; on the other, Democrats could cast him as an absentee candidate.
If Ryan is looking for an example of how to be successful on both the national ticket and in a congressional race, he would have to look no further than current Vice President Joe Biden, who won nearly 65 percent of the vote in his Senate reelection campaign 2008, the same year he was elected vice president.
The broader congressional effect of Ryan’s addition to the national ticket is perhaps more notable than the impact on his own race. Democrats will likely double down on the effort to tie Republican House candidates to Ryan’s plan to revamp Medicare; for Republicans, the architect of the controversial blueprint will now be defending it on an even larger stage than before.