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Paul Ryan's Wisconsin neighbors supported his opponents

November 14, 2012|By Bob Secter, Tribune reporter
  • Mitt Romney hugs running mate Paul Ryan on election night in Boston.
Mitt Romney hugs running mate Paul Ryan on election night in Boston. (Timothy A. Clark / AFP/Getty…)

In the closing days of his vice-presidential run, Paul D. Ryan sought to connect with voters in small- and medium-sized towns across Ohio by repeatedly telling them how much their community had in common with his own hometown of Janesville, Wis.

Now, post-election, the Wisconsin congressman is blaming his Republican ticket loss with presidential contender Mitt Romney on a huge turnout of urban voters for President Obama.

One flaw in that analysis may be that election results indicate the Romney-Ryan ticket didn’t exactly connect with the voters back in Janesville, either.

A struggling blue-collar manufacturing town of 63,575, Janesville lies on the eastern edge of Rock County, Wis., and unofficial election tabulations from the county clerk there show that only 37% of Ryan’s hometown neighbors voted for him and his running mate. Meanwhile, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden got 62% of the Janesville vote.

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The results were even slightly worse for Ryan from his own polling place at the Hedberg Public Library. Out of 1,428 votes cast there, 65% went for Obama-Biden and just 34% for Romney-Ryan.

Ryan, a seven-term member of the U.S. House,  ran simultaneously for reelection to that post and won, besting Democrat Paul Zerban by 55% to 43% across a district that stretches from Janesville to the Republican rich suburbs of Milwaukee.

But in Janesville proper, Ryan fared only a little better in his congressional run than he did in the vice presidential one. Zerban grabbed 54% of the Janesville vote to 44% for Ryan.  And at the Hedberg library polling spot, Ryan was the choice of just 41% of voters to 58% for Zerban.

Ryan, a rising Republican star despite last week’s vice presidential loss, frequently invoked his Janesville roots during the campaign. But the voting results from Janesville raise questions about whether his neighbors consider him in sync with their values and concerns.

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bsecter@tribune.com

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