Ryan gets back to reality
JANESVILLE Janesville's Paul Ryan says he's grateful to have had the opportunity to campaign with Mitt Romney, and now it's "back to normal" as he settles back into life as Wisconsin's 1st District congressman.
"It was a very positive experience for my family," Ryan said Monday during a telephone interview from his Janesville campaign office. "My kids are young and resilient. People we met and worked with were very respectful to my wife, Janna, and the kids. It's was a positive experience for them."
While presidential campaigns are intense, Ryan said he was not overwhelmed or surprised by the effort required.
"The biggest surprise for me was being selected as the vice presidential running mate," Ryan said. "I didn't know I was selected until a week before the announcement."
The Romney-Ryan team accomplished its campaign goals but underestimated voter turnout in urban areas, Ryan said.
"We went into election day expecting to win," Ryan said. "Our polling did not accurately predict the turnout in the critical states. The president deserves credit for that. He won fair and square."
While veteran poll watchers were not surprised that Ryan was re-elected as the 1st District congressman, him losing in Rock County and Janesville came as a surprise to many. Ryan said the national campaign changed his image.
"Rock County and Janesville are Democratic, yet I was successful in past campaigns because I was viewed less as a Republican and more as a Janesville guy," Ryan said. "Being on the Republican ticket, my image was more tied to the Republican Party, and people viewed me more as a Republican than as from Janesville."
Ryan gave no clues about his long-term political future.
"I'll be making no decisions while the presidential campaign is this fresh," he said. "We are all tired of presidential politics.
"What happens in 2016 is the farthest thing from my mind," Ryan said. "What people expect from leaders, including myself, is to concentrate on the people, not themselves. People want us to find a way to make this still dysfunctional government work."
Job one for Congress for the next two months is to deal with the so-called fiscal cliff, which mandates increased tax rates and significant spending cuts. Ryan said he plans to be a prominent player in those discussions.
"My dad told me over and over that you can be part of the problem or part of the solution," Ryan said. "Well, my job for everyone, Democrat or Republican, in the 1st Congressional District is to be part of the solution."
A contentious budget issue is whether to generate more income tax revenue from high earners. President Barack Obama and Democrats want more revenue from high earners while Republicans are resisting tax increases from anyone.
"I think we can address the revenue issue with loopholes as opposed to tax rates," Ryan said.
When asked to identify targeted tax loopholes and deductions, Ryan said there's a better way than eliminating specific tax breaks for the wealthy.
"I'm looking at giving high earners a certain number, such as $20,000, that they must eliminate as deductions, but let them choose which deductions to eliminate," he said. "Some may look at mortgages or charity or savings. A certain amount of the high earners' income would no longer be sheltered from taxation, but let them decide which deductions to eliminate up to that amount."
Raising revenue via tax rates will hurt the economy, Ryan said.
"A tax rate increase in Wisconsin would hit nine out of 10 successful business people," Ryan said. "These are the job creators, and the effect would be a blow to the economy."
Despite his unsuccessful bid to be vice president and his low poll numbers in his hometown, there was a positive aspect to the Nov. 6 election results, Ryan said.
"This is our home where our family, friends and neighbors all came together to support us in spite of the inconveniences caused by security," he said.
Life is back to normal for Ryan just days after the election.
"I've been to the Y twice to watch my sons' basketball games, and Liza has a volleyball game tonight," he said.
The election loss, he said, had one bright spot.
"The silver lining is we get to stay here in Janesville," he said.