It comes as no secret that here in the home stretch of the 2012 presidential election that former Governor Mitt Romney’s ratings in key battleground states have sunk to less than favorable. In the wake of these startling poll numbers, Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan appears to have stepped back and taken a less definitive role in the campaign. The question remains, where has Paul Ryan gone?
In the days and weeks following Romney’s infamous comment in which he claimed he did not have to worry about the 47% of Americans who are dependent on the government, prominent Republicans have taken a very vocal stance against the Governor. William Kristol of the Weekly Standard referred to his comments as “arrogant and stupid.” Connecticut Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon remarked “I disagree with Governor Romney's insinuation that 47 percent of Americans believe they are victims.”
Whether Ryan agrees or disagrees with Romney’s comments, an attempt to defend the comments, or align himself closely with Romney could potentially alienate him from his voting bloc and the rest of the Republican Party. A move like this could be damaging to his career and credibility.
Voters tend to lose sight of the fact that Paul Ryan is not just running alongside Romney, but he is also up for reelection in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional district. Unfortunately, Romney saw a huge dive in polling numbers in Wisconsin after his 47% comments as many Wisconsin voters fall within the “47%” who Romney claims rely on government assistance and do not pay taxes.
According to public opinion polling, just after the announcement of Ryan as a running mate Romney pulled ahead to maintain a one point lead in Wisconsin. In the most recent polls since his remarks, Obama holds a commanding lead in the state of upwards of five points.
If Ryan attempts to justify Romney’s comments he will alienate a large portion of his voters. This could cost him his otherwise safe seat in the House. With the election currently hanging in balance, Ryan has to do what is necessary to maintain his seat in the House, and keep his district happy with his job performance.
Ryan may not just have his eyes on maintaining his current job, but also he may have his sights set on 2016. If Ryan hopes to have a shot at the White House in 2016, being heavily attached to the Romney campaign could prove detrimental to his chances. If Ryan plays it right during the debates and throughout the rest of the election, he will make himself a strong contender as a Republican candidate in the 2016 election.
Ryan’s ability to make it as a candidate in 2016 will in large part be dependent on how he carries himself through the rest of the election cycle. If he is able to show in the next 40 days that he has a cohesive plan to create jobs and prosperity for that “47%” that Romney has seemingly disregarded then he will gain the respect and name recognition of the disgruntled members of the Republican Party. However, if he cozies up to Romney, and attempts to defend him, this credibility may be out the window.
Ryan seems to be distancing himself from the presidential campaign for the simple fact of looking after his own job security. Ryan’s bas of supporters in Wisconsin have been alienated by Mitt Romney. Not only that, but Ryan may be headed toward a presidential bid in 2016. If he continues to play his cards right through the rest of this election cycle, he may have shot.