Election 2012

Grassroots activists still behind Wisconsin’s ‘favorite son’

Grassroots activists still behind Wisconsin's 'favorite son'

For all the national punditocracy’s efforts to claim that Joe Biden emerged on top in the vice presidential debate Thursday, Republican activists at the grassroots level in swing states were not only energized by Paul Ryan’s performance, but also discovered a new reason for intensely disliking Barack Obama’s vice president: a rudeness toward Ryan that, to many of them, bordered on boorishness.

Almost to a person, grassroots volunteers who spoke to Human Events immediately following the debate were fired up by Biden’s interruptions and smirks, and by Ryan’s tactful handling of himself in the Kentucky showdown.

“Ryan was not intimidated, despite a very aggressive Biden,” Ann Womble, veteran GOP activist in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, told Human Events. “People will not like and should not like Biden’s silly smirks. Biden parroted the same old message of the Obama administration and showed that fear is the fundamental vehicle of Obama-Biden.”

She added that “Biden needed to put Ryan away and he did not. This puts a great deal of pressure on Obama for the next debate.” Coming days after a Susequehanna Poll showed Obama edging Mitt Romney out in Pennsylvania among likely voters by a margin of 47 to 45 percent, Womble said that following the debate, “Pennsylvania is still in play.”

Ann’s husband Kemp Womble offered his own conclusion, saying that “Ryan came across as sincere and the kind of guy you want your daughter to marry. Biden came across as laughing at his opponent … too smirking. Style points to Ryan.”

In Western Pennsylvania, former Rep. Melissa Hart (R-Pa.) concluded that “Biden overdid it — too aggressive, too disrespectful, and too much smirkiness. Paul Ryan’s strongest point was when he pointed out that the economy was stagnant and not growing, that Obama and Biden have had four years and haven’t fixed it. And Biden had no response to this.”

As to whether the debate would move the Republican poll numbers in the Keystone State, Hart doubted it. Along with the fact that vice presidential debates historically change little in the campaign, she also noted that “there was a Pittsburgh Steelers game on TV at the same time, so a lot of people in this part of the state will not have seen the debate. That’s too bad for the Republicans.”

In another state that appears to be tight — Ohio, with a just-released Rasmussen Poll showing Obama at 47 percent and Romney 45 percent — Cuyahoga County businessman and longtime GOP contributor Bill Lennon told us that “Paul Ryan came across as in command of the facts. And he had the self-discipline to stop when he didn’t have all the information at his fingertips, such as on Afghanistan.

“As for Biden, I never saw that degree of disrespect at that high a level of government. Republicans should be proud that Ryan maintained his composure and didn’t let himself be sidetracked. I think this debate bodes well for him.”

Ingham County (Mich.) GOP Chairman Norm Shinkle spoke to us soon after leaving the party’s “victory center” in Lansing and, along with about 40 other volunteers, worked the phonebank for the Romney-Ryan ticket, had pizza, and watched the debate.

“Joe Biden’s not a very polite guy — (moderator) Martha Raddatz didn’t tell him to behave himself and obviously his parents didn’t when he was little,” said Shinkle. “He was smug and regurgitating talking points — an embarrassment. And he didn’t give any substantive reason why the auto industry here is better with a $52 billion bailout than it would have been with managed bankruptcy.”

Recalling Ryan’s appearance in Oakland County (Mich.) over the weekend with music star Kid Rock, Shinkle said “that appearance, before an overflow crowd, and Paul Ryan’s performance tonight, tell me Michigan is ripe to be targeted by the Romney camp and for Mitt himself to come in for the homestretch.”

Shinkle added that “at the end of the debate, everyone in the victory center stood up and cheered.”

In Ryan’s own Wisconsin, where Biden is campaigning Friday, the latest CBS/New York Times poll showed that among likely voters, Obama-Biden leads Romney-Ryan 50 to 47 percent.

Veteran GOP consultant Scott Becher told us he felt “Paul Ryan was a bit reserved and some folks here thought he should have hit back harder. But all that interrupting and making faces by Biden worked to (Ryan’s) advantage. And besides, most folks here will tell you without hesitation that Paul won. He’s our favorite son.”

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