Madison, WI alternative newsweekly The Isthmus has a piece up this week speculating that Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) might be vulnerable to the challenge mounted by Democratic Kenosha County Commissioner Rob Zerban.
Ryan, of course, is the author of the infamous Ryan Budget, that piece of chicanery whose most well-known feature was its proposal to replace single-payer, defined-benefits Medicare with a paltry government voucher that would shift the rising costs of medical care onto the seniors who can least afford to bear the burden. The Republican support for the Ryan Budget led almost instantly to an unexpected and very welcome Democratic victory in the right-leaning New York 26th Congressional District last May. The Democrat Kathy Hochul portrayed her Republican opponent as extremist because the Republican came out in favor of the Ryan Budget.
Now, Rob Zerban is deploying the same argument against Ryan himself, and the Isthmus suggests it's an approach that might have legs. More details over the squiggle.
The Isthmus quotes Zerban saying Ryan serves interests foreign to the district:
"The ideas that he's coming up with, trying to privatize Social Security and Medicare, these aren't coming from within the 1st Congressional District. Who knows where they're coming from. He's pandering to special-interest groups that he's getting a lot of money from."
Internal polling conducted by Democratic pollster Paul Maslin suggests Ryan might be vulnerable, and a political scientist at the UW-Madison argues that the Medicare issue could erode Ryan's support among senior citizens and that the Walker recall campaign -- which if it succeeds could seriously damage the Republican brand in the state -- might also weaken Ryan, if Zerban can successfully link his opponent to the unpopular and toxic Republican governor.
Zerban is also using some non-traditional methods to strengthen his campaign. When he learned last month a reddit group had formed attacking Ryan over the SOPA issue (Ryan's position on the bill is actually ambiguous, but the group didn't know that), Zerban offered himself as an attractive alternative. Within two days, he raised $15,000 for his campaign.
It's a long shot, I know. But Zerban definitely deserves a look. Our immediate goal, of course, has to be to recall Walker and take back the state Senate. But in terms of national politics, defeating Ryan could go a long way towards driving a stake through the heart of Republican extremism.