There is no congressional race anywhere in the country more important than Rob Zerban’s challenge to Wall Street’s favorite politician, Paul Ryan. They look at Ryan and they see the perfect sieve for their entire one-percent anti-democratic agenda. And they see a future senator and president. With virtually no help from the DCCC– which at least isn’t protecting Ryan the way they have in past elections– Rob is taking on the Republican superman who just reported the single largest House war chest in the country– over $4 million. Rob has something else: the tumult of Wisconsin politics and the realization among workers and ordinary families there that this is for real; we are fighting for our lives and our children’s lives. Please join us below in the comments section to meet Rob for yourself and ask him whatever you’d like to know about his campaign.
We’ve been following Ryan’s ride in Congress for longer than most, and, of course, what we all wanted to know from Rob was why this year would be different from all the past years, when Ryan trounced his opponents.
I often get asked, “how are you going to beat Paul Ryan?” Ryan has incumbency, money, I am told a boyishly pretty face, and of course, he is a party boss. Previous challengers have not performed well. People ask, “what will be different.”
A big shift has taken place in the way people feel about Paul Ryan. Social Security and Medicare are “the third rail” of politics meaning you get shocked if you touch them. This happened to Ryan. While Ryan has gotten 60% support in the past, he is now polling easily in the 40s after our message is heard. Independents prefer me by a 3 to 1 margin. Ryan will move even lower because national Democrats, including President Obama, have taken a strong stand to protect retirement security and our social safety net. The more Democrats focus their fire on Ryan, the more people in the district become aware of his radical agenda. It also doesn’t help that Ryan has presided over one of the most unpopular Congresses in history with 91% disapproval.
The reason Ryan has been able to win is because he hasn’t had a strong Democratic challenger. The First District of Wisconsin was, and is, a seat Democrats can win. This district was previously represented by Democrats including Les Aspin, Clinton’s Defense Secretary, and Peter Barca who is a leading legislator now in state government. The district also supported Obama in 2008 with 52% of the vote. Ryan had opponents before that raised less than $20,000. There is nothing wrong with good people running for office, but against someone like Ryan, it takes a much larger effort than anyone can do on their own. It will take progressives across this country to come together to defeat Ryan. I believe we could have won this election in 2008 against Ryan if we had tried. I am here to make sure we don’t waste that opportunity again.
Another reason we can win is that we are running a strong campaign. Our campaign has focused on drawing these contrasts and being accessible to the people. We have had great success so far. Already in my campaign in 2011, we have outraised all previous challengers to Paul Ryan combined. We have over 7,000 supporters across the country and have earned great endorsements including that of the AFL- CIO, SEIU, and Senator Russ Feingold. I am focused on drawing clear contrasts, explaining my values, and showing voters how my plans will make their lives better.
The votes are here in Wisconsin, and I think with the recalls and our efforts to take out Ryan, we will have the energy to turn out the votes. My challenge is funding our grassroots volunteers and making sure that I take every opportunity to show contrast my ideas with Paul Ryan’s.
I don’t need unlimited money to beat Ryan. I need enough money to run my campaign. There is a big difference and I think we are on track to getting there. So far, we have raised over $500,000 from over 7,000 people. This is an incredible grassroots effort but we have a ways to go so we must grow.
I will beat Ryan because I understand what voters are looking for- experience and the right priorities. My focus is on drawing clear contrasts along both those lines. I grew up with a humble background and worked to build two companies and employ 45 people. Paul Ryan was born with many privileges and has spent a career in politics. I think people are looking for Representatives with real world experience in this economy, particularly business experience, and I have that and Ryan does not.
My focus is not just on personal qualities, but on values and priorities. Paul Ryan’s ideas are to benefit the ultrawealthy at everyone else’s expense. Ryan wants and to slash our social safety net, including seniors programs, the environment, women’s health, education, infrastructure, and economic recovery efforts– all to give more tax breaks to the rich! My focus is on rebuilding the middle class by making critical investments into worker retraining, education, green energy, and research. I will pay for this by eliminating tax loopholes and the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and by cutting war spending. I am on the side of 99% of Americans, and Paul Ryan is only a 1% warrior. He is a man with a lot of money and no friends.
Blue America officially endorsed Rob and added him to our Blue America page. And not just because Ryan is so execrable. Rob is a self-taught progressive with his head screwed on right, who wants to do the right thing for working families and who has the right instincts to be a fine congressman. Help us shock the GOP, Wall Street, K Street and the DCCC on election day.