By Alex Seitz-Wald
Rep. Paul Ryan may have a huge new role on the national stage as Mitt Romney's vice-presidential nominee, but he also faces a tough race back home against Democrat Rob Zerban, the strongest challenger Ryan has seen since he was first elected to Congress. Zerban tells Salon why he can win; why Paul Ryan's being born "with a silver spoon in his mouth" makes it hard for him to understand the plight of the poor; and why he thinks Medicare will make Ryan lose twice this year.
How does Ryan's selection as the vice-presidential nominee change the race?
Obviously, it's drawn a lot more attention to the race. We've had an influx of campaign contributions as more and more people become aware of Paul Ryan's radical plan. So it's wonderful to have the help and more people paying attention.
Running against someone with as big a name as Paul Ryan, the obvious question is viability. Why can you win?
There's a lot of things that have fallen into place. Frankly, Paul Ryan's never seen an opponent like me. You know, for four cycles, there was a guy who wasn't really a serious opponent, so Paul Ryan has basically had a free pass. The last candidate raised all of about $12,000. We've raised over $1.5 million. Nobody has ever raised that kind of money before. And we know he's worried. Prior to being picked for V.P., he had spent three times more on his media buy than he had ever spent before. In the quarter before being picked, he raised about $1 million and spent almost $750,000. He's never done that before there are a lot of firsts.
And people like my experience as a business owner, building two companies from the ground up employing 45 people. They like my personal story of coming in from an impoverished background and living my version of the American dream, getting an education and realizing that I did not do it on my own. I'm grateful for having had the ability to receive an education because of Pell Grants and Stafford Loans. As a child, I ate government cheese. I got free lunch at public school. And my mom really struggled to keep the roof over our head.