Rep. Paul Ryan's constituents like him where he is
MUSKEGO, Wis. Many constituents in Congressman Paul Ryan's district said Thursday he would make a great vice presidential candidate if he gets tapped, but that he'd make more of a difference staying put and working on federal budget issues.
Ryan's name has come up as a potential running mate to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom Ryan has endorsed, and the subject came up at his first listening session Thursday in Muskego. Ryan, R-Janesville, is holding six sessions Thursday and Friday.
"I appreciate what you are doing in Washington now and I really want you to stay with us here instead of going up on the hill as VP," said Hugh Hancock, 71, to a round of applause.
He followed the statement by asking a question about the nation's dependence on foreign oil. Ryan answered the question but didn't address the vice presidential comment.
Afterward, Hancock said Ryan's too valuable and is making a difference as chairman of the Republican-led House Budget Committee.
"I don't think he can be as effective as a vice president as he is in the House of Representatives," said Hancock, a retired mechanical engineer from the Town of Vernon. "He's doing such a great job here and the vice president goes to state funerals."
The 42-year-old Ryan has authored a budget that combines deep spending cuts in safety-net programs for the poor with an overhaul of Medicare and steep drops in tax rates. While the plan is doomed in the Democratic-controlled Senate, it sets out the GOP's fiscal priorities.
Ryan received a standing ovation from the 300 or so people when he arrived at the Muskego banquet hall Thursday morning. About the same number of people attended a session in Elkhorn, Ryan said in a phone interview afterward.
He said he's flattered that constituents want him to stay, and that it's too early for him to make a decision about whether he'd take the position.
"If it's something I need to seriously consider, along with my family and my wife and our family, then we'll do that but right now I'm focused on doing my job," he said.
Render Spencer and his wife Catherine, both 68 and of Muskego, also want to see Ryan stay in the House of Representatives.
"Paul Ryan is what I consider a financial genius," said Render Spencer, a retired biomedical engineer. "I would like to see him run the treasury and stay with the financial side of this because I think that's where our problem is."
Catherine Spencer, a retired bill collector, said it would be OK, though, if he became a vice presidential candidate. "We'll still support him," she said.
Keith Best, 58, a sales representative from Waukesha, said he could see Ryan in bigger positions.
"If he was tapped that would give him a chance to be president down the road," he said.
Ryan started the session by talking about the nation's debt and his budget proposal. Constituents also asked questions about defense spending, fixing the health insurance system, Israel possibly using force against Iran over nuclear weapons issues, Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
One man prodded Ryan on which Republican he supports for the U.S. Senate race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat.
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, ex-U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and hedge fund investor Eric Hovde all are vying for the GOP nomination.
Ryan said the party may make an endorsement at the state convention in Green Bay this month but he wasn't going to endorse anyone Thursday.
"They would all be an improvement," Ryan answered to laughter and applause. "That's your choice."
Voters will pick a nominee in an Aug. 14 primary election.