RACINE COUNTY — Congressman Paul Ryan is back in southeastern Wisconsin, a “bittersweet” homecoming following a national vice presidential loss at what he calls “a critical time” for the United States.
"It hurts to lose a big election like this, but I don’t have any regrets whatsoever,” Ryan, whose district includes Racine County, told The Journal Times on Monday. “We ran the kind of race we wanted to run,” campaigning on “specific solutions and big ideas.”
But President Barack Obama, reelected with almost 51 percent of the popular vote, “did a better job of getting the voters to the polls,” Ryan said, adding that the president’s campaign did what it needed to win, and ultimately “won fair and square.”
Ryan maintained media silence since his loss last Tuesday, which was broken for the first time Monday with a series of interviews to local outlets.
Re-elected for the eighth time to the House as southeastern Wisconsin’s congressman, Ryan said he returned home to Janesville Wednesday and just “unplugged”— no watching the news, no giving interviews, just time at home with his family.
If the TV was on at all, it was likely a football game. Ryan also attended his son’s basketball games, his daughter’s volleyball games and went hunting, even helping daughter Liza get her hunter safety certificate.
But after months of campaigning, first for Congress and then for vice president, Ryan gets only a brief reprieve before he and his fellow legislators return to Washington D.C. to start off a lame duck session that hopes to make headway addressing the country’s debt problems before a new wave of tax increases and spending cuts take effect.
"Whether people intended to or not, they re-elected a divided government,” Ryan said of the national election results. “But the difference is, this time we need to work.”
With Republicans making up the congressional majority and Democrats controlling the White House and Senate, Ryan said getting to work depends on finding common ground, which he said hinges on whether Democrats put a concrete proposal on the table.
"Hopefully the president will lead by putting out specific solutions that we can work from,” said Ryan.
For Ryan’s part, pursuing nationwide tax reform and taking a “hard look” at entitlement programs is the best solution. Ryan confirmed Monday that he will again be the House Budget Committee’s chair in the upcoming session.
Ryan arrived home last Wednesday and returns to Washington Tuesday, one week after the election, to begin work.
But Monday, Ryan sounded somewhat rueful, summing up his feelings on the election by saying, “Well, it didn’t go my way.”
"It’s bittersweet. The sweet part is I’m back home on the block I grew up on, with my friends and family,” he said. “The bitter part is we lost a major presidential election at a critical time.”