GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) on Monday said he was “surprised” by the outcome of the election, but did not believe his defeat signaled the electorate’s rejection of his budget plans.
“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. “When we watched Virginia and Ohio coming in, and those ones coming in as tight as they were, and looking like we were going to lose them, that's when it became clear we weren't going to win.”
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.
Democrats made Ryan’s work as House Budget committee chairman a centerpiece of their attacks on him and GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Ryan said that while the end result was “very disappointing,” running with Romney was a “great experience.”
With lawmakers and the president returning to a status-quo Washington, Ryan added that the challenge remained to make “divided government” work.
“We now have divided government like we did before, but the divided government we had the last two years didn't work,” said Ryan.
“I’m still the chairman of the House Budget Committee; what that tells me is we’re going to have to find common ground, a way to prevent this ‘fiscal cliff’ from happening, from the debt crisis from taking down this country and its economy. We’re going to have to find a way to make divided government work.”
He said the pressure was on the president to offer detailed solutions to avoid the fiscal cliff of expiring lower tax rates and automatic spending cuts, which economists warn could spark a new recession.
“It’s in his interest to offer some ideas to put specific ideas on the table,” Ryan said, adding that he was open to a deal that included “higher revenues through tax reforms.”
Reflecting on the election, Ryan expressed regret that the ticket was unable to carry his home state of Wisconsin, where Republicans believed they were in striking distance despite the state not backing a GOP presidential candidate since 1984.
“We always knew Wisconsin was going to be an uphill fight,” Ryan said. “Mitt didn't pick me for a certain state, he picked me for issues, for governing, for taking on the debt crisis. We had hoped to win Wisconsin, we fought very hard here for Wisconsin. We cut the president's lead in half, but nevertheless it wasn't enough.”
Ryan, though, dismissed talk of a potential 2016 presidential bid, saying he was focused on his work as a lawmaker.
“We just finished a presidential election. I think everybody’s tired of talking about presidential politics; I am. So right now, I look at what I’ve just been reelected to do: to represent Wisconsin, to be the chairman of the Budget Committee, to deal with these budget and fiscal economic issues.”