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Thursday, March 5, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 4.0° F  Fair
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Paul Ryan: 'Traitor' or Republican ticket savior?
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Munger: Ryan is 'really good at deflecting criticism. He just changes the subject. He's a crafty politician.'
Munger: Ryan is 'really good at deflecting criticism. He just changes the subject. He's a crafty politician.'
Credit:Judith Davidoff

Bart Munger brings his "Paul Ryan is a traitor" sign to his daily protests against unrestrained campaign spending at the state Capitol. But the Milton resident (and Ryan constituent) brought some additional materials to the Dane County Farmers' Market Saturday morning, in response to the just-out news that Republican Mitt Romney had chosen Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate.

Perched on the edge of the flower bed where State Street meets the Capitol, Munger handed out copies of a June 8 Daily Kos diary on the revelations, reported by Robert Draper in his widely discussed book, "Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S House of Representatives," that Ryan and other Republican lawmakers and strategists met on the day of Barack Obama's inauguration to plot ways to sabotage his presidency.

"Our biggest problem now is that we have a Congress that won't do any dealing at all with the president," said Munger. "Probably because they want power and will do anything they can to secure it."

Munger, who works at UW-Madison's physical plant, says he first met Ryan, a seven-term congressman from District 1, during the lead up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"I'd go to town hall meetings and there was a lot of resistance," said Munger. But Ryan did not seem moved, he added. "He's really good at deflecting criticism. He just changes the subject. He's a crafty politician." And intelligent, Munger added.

Munger said he could not identify anything that Ryan -- who gained national attention for his budget plans to, among other things, privatize Medicare -- had done for his Wisconsin district.

"I don't know that he's brought anything home," said Munger, who noted he does not see Ryan much around the district.

But in remarks Saturday morning in Norfolk, Virginia, Ryan spoke of his deep Badger roots.

"Janesville, Wisconsin is where I was born and raised, and I never really left it. It's our home now," Ryan said.

Ben Sparks, director of communications for Romney's campaign in Wisconsin, rejected Munger's criticism of Ryan as a "traitor."

"A lot of these protesters at the Capitol for the past two years say a lot of things and very few things have substance," Sparks said. Even the Draper report? "That's an attack that has no substance," Sparks responded.

But it got Larry Vaughn's attention while he was rounding the corner at the farmers' Market. "Romney needs Ryan," he called out to Munger.

Vaughn, who lives in Madison and works for American Family Insurance, said in an interview that Romney, an "older-guard" businessman, needed someone to offset his stiff demeanor. Vaughn, who tends to vote Democratic, called Ryan "charismatic" and "a family man."

By pairing Romney's family with Ryan's, said Vaughn, the two will "appear very family oriented, young and energized."

Standing just on the other side of the flower bed, congressional candidate and state Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) was greeting voters in advance of Tuesday's Democratic primary.

He said Rob Zerban, who is running against Ryan for his Congressional seat, should benefit from the intense media scrutiny that will now be focused on Ryan.

"Rob Zerban never would have had the resources to expose Paul Ryan's voting record and his views," said Pocan. "Now that's going to be done for him on a national stage. Having grown up in Kenosha and knowing that district I think that is a very competitive seat now and Rob Zerban is going to have a good shot at getting elected to Congress."

Added Pocan: "Not only is it apparent that Mitt Romney doesn't want the vote of seniors or anybody who might become a senior," but the GOP "also seems to want to lose the first Congressional seat in Wisconsin."

Sparks had a different take. "Adding Ryan to the ticket only strengthened the Republicans' cause," he said. "They are the only ones putting forward idea after idea for creating jobs and getting the economy under control."

Sparks also said that Obama stripped billions of dollars from Medicare to pay for his health insurance overhaul. The Romney ticket, on the other hand, backs a "bipartisan plan to strengthen Medicare by giving future seniors the choice between traditional Medicare and private plans."

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