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A Look at the Numbers: Ryan and the 'Veepstakes'

Mike Conroy

A Look at the Numbers: Ryan and the 'Veepstakes'

CREATED Apr. 27, 2012

 

By Craig Gilbert of the Journal Sentinel

When Paul Ryan drew some mention four years ago as a vice presidential prospect, he chalked it up to “the checklist.”

“I check a series of boxes,” he said at the time. “Young guy. Economics guy. From a swing state. Catholic.”

Today the talk is more serious. Ryan checks the same political boxes for the GOP ticket. But now he’s a much bigger national figure, almost single-handedly defining his party’s domestic agenda with the controversial budgets he persuaded House Republicans to pass in 2011 and 2012.  

That makes the House budget chair from Janesville both enticing and risky as a “veep” pick for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who campaigned for five days in Wisconsin this spring with Ryan at his side. Thanks to those budgets, Ryan is now a national hero to the right and villain to the left, a towering role for a member of the House who isn’t a party leader.   

There’s no way to quantify Ryan’s chances of being tapped as Romney’s running mate.

But here are some numbers to think about when it comes to Ryan and the “veepstakes:”  

2: Number of sitting House members who have been selected for the vice presidential spot since 1948 by either party. It doesn’t happen much. Democrat Geraldine Ferraro was chosen by Walter Mondale in 1984 and Republican Bill Miller was chosen by Barry Goldwater in 1964. Both came from the state of New York. Both tickets lost and neither VP pick ever held elected office again.

14: Number of sitting Senators nominated for vice president since 1948. The Senate has been a far more common place to go for a running mate than the House or any other office including governor. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rob Portman of Ohio are generally seen as the leading Senate prospects for VP. For some reason, senators have been tapped for running mate far more often by Democrats than Republicans in recent decades. Only two of the past eight GOP vice presidential candidates came straight from the Senate, compared to seven of the past eight Democratic picks.

42: Ryan’s age. He would be the third-youngest vice presidential selection since World War Two, after Richard Nixon (39) in 1952 and Dan Quayle (41) in 1988. Republicans may figure Ryan can help cut into President’s Obama’s edge with younger voters, but may also wonder whether he looks “too young” for the part.

10: Number of electoral votes the GOP would capture if the party carried Ryan’s home state. Since Wisconsin has voted Democratic for president six times in a row, this would be a huge pick-up for Republicans in a close election. But it’s far from clear how much of a boost Ryan’s presence on the ticket would provide in Wisconsin. Political science research suggests most vice-presidential candidates do little or nothing to boost the performance of their ticket in their home states. "To the extent there's a home-state effect, it's pretty small," says UW-Milwaukee prof. Tom Holbrook. In fact, scholars debate whether running mates have any effect at all on presidential elections. In a 2001 paper called “Requiem for a Lightweight,” David Romero of the University of Texas argued they have none. “Running mates haven't decided an election in more than a half-century,” GOP strategist Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal Thursday. It’s pretty clear that recent presidential nominees haven’t placed much importance on home-state effects. Since 1984, vice presidential candidates have hailed from Delaware, Alaska, North Carolina, Wyoming, Connecticut, Tennessee, New York, Indiana and Texas. Only Tennessee was a competitive presidential state in the year the choice of running mate was made.

55: Estimated number of TV appearances Ryan has made on cable, network television and Wisconsin broadcast affiliates in the first four months of 2012. One selling point for Ryan in the veepstakes is his ability to communicate on TV and his comfort and experience with the national media. No one else being talked about for running mate has spent as much time in recent years debating the issues on television. According to a tally by Roll Call, Ryan’s seven appearances on Sunday news shows this year rank him second in Congress behind only Ron Paul, who has been running for president. Ryan has appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CNBC and other channels.

17: Appearances by Ryan on Fox News Channel alone since Jan. 1, including three times with Greta Van Susteren and twice with Sean Hannity. Ryan is such a frequent and popular guest on the network that Fox News Sunday presented him with a birthday cake on the air during a Jan. 29 interview (“I don’t eat sweets,” Ryan said). Ryan’s popularity with Fox goes hand in hand with his influence in the conservative movement. It is another asset he could bring to the GOP ticket, especially if the Romney campaign feels the need to ramp up enthusiasm on the right, where Romney’s support was soft in the primaries.

8: Appearances by Ryan this year on CNBC, underscoring his influence on fiscal issues and popularity with economic conservatives, But while he’s mainly an “economics guy,” Ryan also maintains ties to social conservatives. He has appeared this year on the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Catholic network EWTN to make moral arguments for his budget and defend it from Catholic critics who say it would hurt the poor and vulnerable. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops urged lawmakers this month to “resist for moral and human reasons” cuts to hunger and nutrition programs in the Ryan budget. More than 80 professors and administrators at Georgetown University signed a letter to Ryan before his appearance at the Catholic school Thursday, accusing him of wrongly citing Catholic teaching to argue for his budget. Ryan defended himself from those critics in his Georgetown speech, saying that “as a Catholic in public life … I do not believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government.”

76:  Number of people arrested at the Cannon House Office Building Tuesday protesting the Ryan budget cuts to Medicaid, including five people from Wisconsin. The protests were organized by ADAPT, a group that advocates for the disabled and led protests of last year’s Ryan budget as well. Its call for deep cuts in Medicaid and a total overhaul of Medicare for people currently under the age of 55 put the Ryan budget at the center of a searing debate between the parties over the size and role of government and the social safety net. It also makes Ryan a huge lightning rod. Having endorsed the Ryan budget, Romney can choose to tap its author and chief  advocate as his running mate. But he would also embracing all its political risks.  

$5.1 million: Cash on hand in Ryan’s campaign fund, more than any other member of the House of Representatives, including the Speaker. The chart below from the Center for Responsive Politics shows Ryan’s fundraising by election cycle (the green bars) compared to the average House member (the red line), with Ryan’s contributions spiking dramatically in the past two cycles:

 

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