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Paul Ryan: Obama victory not a mandate

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said despite President Obama’s impressive election victory last Tuesday, voters had not given the president a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy or unilaterally implement his agenda in any capacity.

"I don't think so,” Ryan told ABC’s Jonathan Karl when asked if Obama had secured a mandate. “Because they also reelected the House Republicans. So whether people intended or not, we've got divided government. This is a very close election, and unfortunately divided government didn't work very well the last two years. We're gonna have to make sure it works in the next two years.”

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Obama made raising taxes on the highest earners central to his reelection campaign, and with automatic tax hikes and spending cuts looming at the end of the year, Democrats are hopeful the president will use his political capital to follow through on that election-year promise.

Ryan, giving his first interview since the election, argued the better strategy is to “take away the loopholes” through tax reform.

“Raising tax rates hurts economic growth, and of all things we need right now — to prevent a fiscal cliff, prevent a recession, prevent a debt crisis — is we need people to go back to work,” he added. "There are other ways of getting more revenue into our government without damaging the economy, and that's the kind of thing we hope to achieve."

Returning to the election, Ryan said he was “very proud” of the campaign he and Mitt Romney ran, and said it was "exactly the kind of campaign that I would've run had I been on the top of the ticket."

Some conservatives have piled on Romney in the aftermath of the loss, saying he didn’t effectively convey the conservative message, and that his campaign operations were prone to amateur mistakes.

"We wanted to offer specific ideas and solutions rooted in our country's principles, on how to get people back to work and how to fix the debt crisis, strength in our military, and get people going, you know, back to work, and we offered those ideas," Ryan said. "We ran the kind of campaign we wanted to run. I'm very proud of the campaign we ran, and it was an absolute honor to be on the ticket with Mitt Romney."

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, said Obama’s victory was largely due to his superior ground operations.

"The president deserves kudos for having a fantastic ground game, and the point I'm simply making is he won," he continued. "He won fair and square. He got more votes, and that's the way our system works, and so he ought to be congratulated for that."

Heading into election night, Republicans were hopeful that, despite polls showing Obama with slight leads nationally and in battleground states, Romney’s advantage with independents and an enthusiasm gap would be enough to propel the GOP candidate to victory.

However, Obama sealed his victory early on election night, taking nearly every swing state, including a handful Republicans thought were squarely in Romney’s column. This led to the charge from some that the Romney campaign and its internal pollsters were deceiving themselves about their prospects for victory.

"We thought we had a very good chance of winning,” Ryan said. “You know, the polling and the data and all the people who are the smart people who watch this stuff — they had a pretty optimistic view on the night. Going into Boston that day, we felt like we had a pretty darn good chance of winning. So as you can imagine, it was a bit of a shock when we didn't win, but that's just the way these things go."

Ryan didn’t comment on the emerging scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, saying he had taken himself “off the grid after the election” and didn’t know enough about the situation.

“There's an upside to losing, which is a reconnection with my family,” he said.