The Internet got a kick out of the barbs tossed at Republican Paul Ryan when he participated in the vice presidential debate. But it’s easy to forget Ryan’s also running another race—for reelection as a Representative from Wisconsin, as backup in case his presidential ticket loses.
His opponent in that race is no Joe Biden, but he is an established Reddit favorite: Democrat Rob Zerban, who revisited the site to participate in an Ask Me Anything session Thursday.
Though Zerban is a self-admitted “underdog” in the race, and still struggles with being visible to Wisconsin voters, it’s his third popular Q&A with Reddit users. If he accomplishes nothing else as a politician, Zerban has already secured his place in history through the site’s support.
In his first AMA, Zerban painted Ryan as a supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), widely regarded to pose a threat to Reddit’s (and much of the Internet’s), existence. The fact that Ryan had been actually been hedging on SOPA, rather than expressly endorsing it, didn’t matter: redditors gave Zerban $15,000 in campaign donations, prompting Ryan to take a stand against SOPA.
Even though Ryan won’t acknowledge Zerban with a debate, Zerban has actually outraised his opponent since late July (although he still trails in the polls). In over two hours of nonstop answering, Zerban addressed topics ranging from his budget plan, to how charming Ryan is in real life, to whether he secretly posts pictures of cats to Reddit under a secret username.
Are you getting any support from the DNC now that it looks like you are getting within striking distance? Do they believe that you are worth "investing" in yet? Also, how are you planning on closing what seems like still a pretty big gap in poll numbers between now and election day? (rrb)
The Democratic Congressional Committee approached me to run for this seat. And they, along with the Wisconsin state party, and Democratic leaders like Russ Feingold and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have been supportive of me all along.
As for polling numbers, understand all of that was done before I started running T.V. ads, when my name ID was not yet as high as it now is. And we're still getting my name out there. Voters have known Paul Ryan for 14 years and many of them are just meeting me for the first time. I am encouraged by what I have been hearing from voters once they know the difference between my plan and Paul Ryan's. Ryan's ads are offering zero specifics, and his performance on the national stage has been full of dishonesty, as he continues to duck debating me. The voters are hungry for change and I'm going to give it to them.
On a personal level what's your opinion of Ryan? Be honest, we won't tell anybody. (Cyprusg)
My experience is that he is very charming.
Not knowing much about politics in WI can you explain why it seems Ryan is liked there so much? Is it a traditionally very conservative area or is there really something about him specifically that people like? (theungod)
This is not a radical Republican district -- it's a swing district that President Obama carried in 2008. But Paul Ryan's largely gotten a free pass here because for a long time, he'd talked a moderate game here in the district and then goes off to DC and votes along sharply partisan lines. But now that his name is on this radical budget that calls for slashing student loans and essentially ending Medicare, people are seeing him for what he is. And they're not liking it. That's why I think we're headed towards an upset in November.
Could you give us a bit of information about the race in Wisconsins Fightin' 1st? What are the big issues for the district, and how do you and Congressman Ryan differ in your ways to address them? (oxytocin1)
I think the big issues here are the same as most anywhere else: 1. Jobs, 2. Lowering the deficit responsibly while protecting medicare/social security and the programs that help the most people, and 3. getting all this damned money out of our political system.
On jobs, Ryan has failed to save any of the several auto plants or manufacturing factories from closing in this district, and he's vetoed common sense jobs legislation. He's supported outsourcing loopholes, and his running mate said "Let Detroit Fail."
I'd work to bring auto and manufacturing back to Wisconsin. Additionally, agriculture is an important issue in Southeast Wisconsin, and I want to make sure that the farm bills and subsidy programs are benefiting family farms and small businesses first and foremost over the mega agri-corporations.
Has his running for VP in any way helped you? I would be upset if I was from his district (I'm not) because if I vote for him, and he wins his Congress seat, but then also wins the VP, I'm without a representative both now and after the election for several months. (jmad202)
Now that Ryan's been running for V.P. the spotlight has been on his voting record and plans to gut Medicare and Social Security. Voters are starting to see how extreme he really is. Ryan hasn't been representing this district for quite some time now. He aspires to higher office and has all but ignored the people who sent him to Washington. Representing southeast Wisconsin in Congress isn't a consolation prize. It's an honor.
Do you have another secret Reddit account for the anonymous posting of cats? (damontoo)
That's for me to know.
So how are you doing? Can you beat him? Not the ol' "I wouldn't be running if I didn't think I couldn't." What are the numbers for registered voters in your district REP/DEM? (superultraelite)
Wisconsin doesn't register voters by party. But we can look at past party performance as an indicator. This district voted for President Obama 52-48 last election. Ryan usually has performed much higher, but this is the first time since 1998 that a Democrat has run a well-funded (can afford TV ads!) campaign against him. He's gotten a free pass, for whatever reason, from the Wisconsin Dems from 2000 until now. Maybe they thought he really was a moderate before he wrote this Kill Medicare Budget.
We continue to jail Marijuana users. What are your thoughts on one drug, that is legal and openly killing people being deemed fit for society while others continue to be refused to look at seriously? (CeeSaw)
With respect to marijuana, I support limited decriminalization, to ensure people aren't thrown in jail for possessing minor quantities. I just don't think our society benefits from locking someone in jail for marijuana use and throwing away the key.
If Romney wins, and Ryan wins re-election, would you run again in a special election? (runasone)
Right now, I'm really focusing on just winning this election. Until all of those eventualities come into play, I'm not going to worry about the next race.
Pirates or Ninjas? (GingusKhan)
This is a divisive issue. I respect everyone's right to hold their own position.
What inspired you to run against Paul Ryan? (fisher121)
I always say that running for Congress is deeply personal to me, especially because my mom relied on food assistance, specifically government cheese, to help feed us when we were growing up -- and I wouldn't have been able to go to college without Pell Grants and Stafford Loans.
Paul Ryan's budget would make it harder for working class and middle class families to raise their kids and better their circumstances. And I take that personally.
What's Paul Ryan's biggest strength? (Talpostal)
Photo via @RobZerban/Twitter