Paul Ryan won his district with about 80% of the vote this week, but the win wasn't as drama-free as the numbers might suggest.
RACINE, Wisconsin — House Speaker Paul Ryan headed to friendly territory in his home district — Wisconsin’s first, which most in state politics expect him to win — to campaign for the final day before blue collar voters who will determine his fate.
But perhaps more importantly than that—Ryan shoring up what is supposed to be his base—Ryan was forced by workers in the two Wisconsin factories he visited on Monday to answer for globalization.
Ryan, facing a primary challenge from Republican businessman Paul Nehlen, hit the campaign trail in the final day before the voters who first sent him to Washington 18 years ago decide whether they want him to stay there.
After more than a week of refusing to do any events in the district open to press, Ryan—on the final day before Tuesday’s primary with Nehlen—decided at the last minute to hold two open press events in the Racine area. One, in Racine, happened at A&E Tools—a fourth-generation Wisconsin manufacturing plant that employs hundreds locally—where Ryan took questions from workers in a town hall format. The second event, in Pleasant Prairie, was at Ocenco, another manufacturing plant. But it was at the first one that Ryan defended his trade policies, even at one point comparing himself and his position on trade to the 2016 GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Ryan told a group of workers who assembled in a conference room with almost as many national reporters and media as there were factory workers:
“I wanted to come here to A&E Tools to learn about how you get your jobs. I wanted to come and learn about how our economy works in Racine, because if I don’t understand how our economy works… then I can’t be a very good congressman. So one of the things I’m doing is talking to manufacturers about what is it we can do to make manufacturing more successful. What is it we can we do to have more of these jobs in America?”
In addition to pushing his “A Better Way,” agenda which has come under fire during the primary, Ryan made a direct pitch that the way to keep jobs in America—to prevent outsourcing—is to do tax reform. Ryan said:
“This business is taxed at the personal level, so their top tax rate here is 44.6 percent. You know what the companies doing this in other countries are taxed at, like the Canadian companies that produce the same kind of stuff? They’re taxed at 15 percent. China is at 25. Ireland is 12.5. England is 15. The average in the world is about 23. So when we tax our American made products, our American manufacturers much higher tax rates than our foreign competitors are taxing theirs, they immediately lose. So one of the things we are trying to do is make it so we are in a better position to keep jobs here in America, to keep manufacturing here. So we have proposed a complete overhaul of our tax system to number one get those tax rates down to about the average, 25 [percent]. Number two, we want to give businesses the incentive to hire more people and to build more buildings and to buy more machines.”
It's telling that Ryan, who once cited his loyalty to Wisconsin as the reason he wouldn't seek the speakership, is now only coming back to them in his hour of need. Ryan may have won — and won big — but this scare may make the Speaker think twice about neglecting the district that sent him to Washington D.C.