Over the coming days, you’re likely to hear all about how “purple” Paul Ryan’s home congressional district is. In past presidential races, Wisconsin’s blue-collar first congressional district was a solidly Democrat district until 1994; it was won twice by Bill Clinton. Yet in 2008, while Obama was pulling 66 percent of the vote in the City of Kenosha, 67 percent in Janesville, and 70 percent in Racine, Ryan received a solid 52 percent, 59 percent, and 45 percent in those same cities, respectively. Ryan is rarely seriously tested in the district, normally garnering only token Democratic opposition.
However, with today’s announcement, some believe the district might be in play. With Ryan’s ascendance to the role of vice-presidential candidate, some believe his district could be taken by the Democrats. Don’t count on it.
Per Wisconsin law, Ryan is able to run for both his congressional seat and for vice president contemporaneously. And while it may be tricky asking his constituents to vote for him on both ballots, Ryan’s close relationship and popularity among first-district residents will allow him the leeway he needs for them to do him this one solid.
Furthermore, the district’s demographics are changing. Wisconsin redistricted in 2012 in a way that gave Ryan a slightly more solid GOP base with which to work. According to a memo recently distributed by pollster Gene Ulm, Ryan currently leads his Democratic challenger, former small-business owner Rob Zerban, by a 61 percent to 33 percent margin. This number almost matches the 61-32 favorable/unfavorable rating Ryan’s constituents give him.
Zerban, on the other hand, is almost a complete unknown in the district. According to the poll, only 26 percent of respondents had heard of him, with only 10 percent expressing a favorable opinion of him, despite the fact that Zerban has raised $1.2 million in his race to unseat Ryan so far.
Mitt Romney currently leads Ryan’s home district by a 53 percent to 41 percent margin over Barack Obama. That margin will need to increase if the Romney/Ryan team wants to seriously compete for Wisconsin. But even if they lose the national election, one thing remains sure: Ryan will be back representing his home district in the next Congress.
— Christian Schneider is a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.