Is Paul Ryan to blame for GOP’s down-ballot decline?



Democratic Congressional candidates in states like Massachusetts, Virginia, Wisconsin and for some polls, Connecticut, are starting to inch ahead in heavily contested races. A month ago, polls were showing just the opposite. So why the change?

Up host Chris Hayes, in his Saturday show covering the shifting down-ballot races, zeroed in on the Congressional race in Las Vegas, where candidates are neck-and-neck in polls as they spar on largely national issues rather than tackle the topics that directly affect voters in their district. Las Vegas is still suffering a whole host of localized issues with some of the highest foreclosure and unemployment rates in the country, but the political campaigns are instead latching onto nationalized issues—particularly Medicare.

“I think Paul Ryan’s place on the ticket was part of that nationalization,” Hayes told his guest panelists on Saturday. “And for some reason strategically, Republicans have decided they want to have a debate about Medicare - about who is cutting Medicare more.”

Similar problems could plague down-ballot Republicans after what has been dubbed Romney’s “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.” From his divisive remarks criticizing 47% of the electorate, to the chatter over his tax returns, Romney hasn’t helped out members of his own party in heavily contested races. In fact on Wednesday, Wisconsin Senate candidate Tommy Thompson attributed his slide in the polls in part to the ebb and flow of the presidential race.

“The presidential thing is bound to have an impact on every election,” Thompson, a Republican, told the Madison television station WKOW. “You know, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. If you’re a standard-bearer for the presidency is not doing well, it’s going to reflect on the down ballot.”

The National Review’s Kevin Williamson pushed back on the idea that the Romney/Ryan ticket was to blame, telling the Up w/ Chris panelists that the idea of Romney being toxic has been “way, way overblown.”

“Romney hasn’t had the best week ever, but it still is a toss-up race,” he said.

Early voting began in half of the 50 states on Saturday, meaning that slight poll bounces for Democrats in down-ballot races could potentially have a large impact in determining which party is likely to assume control of the U.S. Senate.

Is Paul Ryan to blame for GOP's down-ballot decline?