House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R) came up short in his bid for national office, but won re-election to his House seat in Wisconsin. It wasn't an especially competitive race, though Ryan's margin of victory -- 12 percentage points -- was the closest of his seven congressional bids.
Yesterday, in his first public interview since Election Day -- and his first broadcast interview with anyone in nearly a month -- Ryan sat down with a local station in his district, sharing his take on what went wrong.
"I think the surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race," said Ryan to local station WISC-TV in his first post-election interview.... Ryan, though, said that the election was not a referendum on his budget proposals and ideas on reforming entitlement programs.
"I don't think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare -- we clearly didn't lose it on those issues," he said.
There are a couple of interesting angles to keep in mind. The first is that Ryan isn't really in a position to blame turnout in "urban areas" for the Republicans' national defeat. For one thing, Romney/Ryan lost in swing states like New Hampshire, which have no "urban areas." For another, there really wasn't anything especially surprising about minority turnout, so long as the campaign had a rudimentary understanding of demographics, polls, and recent history.
The second is that Ryan is going to have a tough time selling the idea that issues were irrelevant on Election Day. Indeed, the congressman is running into a falsifiability problem: if his ticket had won, it'd be proof that he's right on the issues, and even after defeat, it's still proof he's right on the issues.
And even putting that aside, NBC's Mark Murray explains today, "For all the talk about how Mitt Romney and the Republicans lost when it came to demographics, the turnout, and the tactics, the exit polls also show that they lost when it came to the issues."
[A]ccording to the exit polls from last week's presidential election, a combined 60% said that tax rates should increase either for everyone or for those making more than $250,000. Just 35% said the tax rates shouldn't increase for anyone.
What's more, 59% said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
And by a 49%-to-46% margin, voters said that their states should legally recognize same-sex marriage.
Even on comprehensive immigration reform -- a subject that some Republicans (like George W. Bush) once supported, but most no longer do -- 65% said most illegal immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for legal status.
It may make Ryan feel better to believe the issues -- and his party's positions of those issues -- were irrelevant to Democratic successes, but if 2012 taught the right anything, it should be that dubious claims that do little but make conservatives feel better aren't exactly reliable.