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Ryan, Johnson Rally GOP Faithful At Racine Dinner

Speaker, Senator Say Much Is At Stake In Upcoming Election

Paul Ryan
House Speaker Paul Ryan. Photo: Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)

Two prominent Republican leaders in Wisconsin are pleading for party members to unify ahead of this fall’s elections.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson delivered that message on Saturday night to a few hundred people at the Racine County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner, which was held at Memorial Hall in Racine.

Ryan took over the top post in the House of Representatives about 100 days ago, seeking to unite GOP representatives who had often disagreed with the previous speaker, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.

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Ryan has started to lay out an agenda for this year’s elections. The plan has five components: improve the economy; clarify foreign policy, help more Americans get out of poverty and achieve upward mobility; replace the Affordable Health Care Act; and, in Ryan’s word, “reclaim the Constitution with a real dedication to the separation of powers.”

The speaker, however, noted that others have expressed concern about a “conservative industrial, or entertainment complex that feeds on anger, that feeds on cynicism, that’s turning inward toward each other.” Ryan himself has felt some of the heat for working with the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama to get some measures passed in Washington, D.C.

He told the Racine audience: “Please note that when we make decisions, we make decisions given the circumstances, given the limitations of say, the Constitution or the divided government circumstances we’re facing.”

He added: “From time to time, there are people who carp about tactics. That doesn’t help our cause, because when Republicans and conservatives stand in a circular firing squad and shoot each other, you know what that guarantees? It guarantees that the left wins by default.”

Ryan said if Republicans focus on going out to win converts to conservativism, “then I have every reason to believe we can win (the fall elections).”

Johnson sounded a similar theme in his remarks, beginning with a defense of Ryan. The first-term senator from Oshkosh said in recent weeks that some conservatives have come up to him and said, “‘What’s happened to Paul Ryan?’”

Said Johnson: “‘A man of courage like Paul Ryan? His conservative credentials have been questioned? Are you kidding me?’”

Johnson, who trails Democrat Russ Feingold in some early polls for this year’s Senate race, also said his conservativism has been questioned.

“I’m having people come up to me and say, ‘There’s really no difference between you and Russ Feingold,’” he said.

Johnson suggested he’s either thought or said, “‘What planet are you from?’”

He also said a huge amount is at stake in this year’s elections, including the very fabric of the nation.

“I understand it. You know who doesn’t understand it? Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders … Senator Feingold,” he said.

Johnson and Ryan spoke shortly before a Republican presidential candidate debate in New Hampshire, at which seven contenders continue to criticize each other.

Sanders and Clinton will debate in Milwaukee Thursday night.

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