HAYES: In the spotlight tonight, grandma. The Democrats plan to keep Republican Congressman Paul Ryan`s hands off of her. Ryan`s district in Wisconsin has long been considered a lost cause for Democrats, who have offered up sacrificial lambs in losing elections since Ryan won his seat in 1998.
This year, they are pouring the party`s full resources into his next opponent, and they are starting early. Small business owner Rob Zerban has already announced his intention to end the political career of the Republican rising star and stop Ryan`s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.
Zerban has launch a website asking supporters to sign a petition telling Paul Ryan to, quote, “take his hands off our grandmas,” saying, “after taking contributions from health care lobbyists, Paul Ryan now wants to empower insurance companies instead of our seniors.”
Zerban`s campaign comes at a moment and in a place that many progressives are hoping will spark a national movement. Wisconsin protests against Governor Scott Walker`s plan to eliminate collective bargaining for employees have turned into recall efforts against Republican state lawmakers.
And Congressman Ryan said that attendance at his town hall meetings is exceeding the numbers he saw during the 2009 health care town halls.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We`re taxing our employers, our businesses, a lot more than our foreign competitors are taxing theirs. The international average for the corporate tax rate is 25 percent. Ours is 35 percent. Hey, come on. Everybody —
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let him talk!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liar!
RYAN: Let me — if you`re yelling, I just want to ask you to leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So are we seeing the next stage in the progresses counter- movement to the Tea Party wave of discontent that powered the Republican party back into control of the House?
Across the country, Republicans are now on the receiving end of political tactics they pioneered, facing angry constituents who openly question talking points and the radical schemes hatched inside the Beltway.
Joining me now is Rob Zerban, Democratic candidate for Republican Congressman Paul Ryan`s seat in Wisconsin, making his I believe national television debut.
Thank you so much, Rob. I really appreciate it.
ROB ZERBAN (D-WI), SEEKING DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION: Thank you for having me.
HAYES: First, tell me about your district. I was looking at the numbers of it, and I was kind of surprised today. It`s the first district. And Ryan`s won quite easily. And I think it`s considered a safe seat. But if I`m not mistaken, Obama won in 2008, isn`t that right?
ZERBAN: That`s correct. Yeah. He won — the district goes from — the west part is where Janesville, all the way east to Kenosha (ph), and it contains Racine as well.
HAYES: And what has motivated you to think that you have a shot, after trouncing after trouncing after trouncing against Democratic opponents in Ryan`s career in Congress?
ZERBAN: Well, we have seen Paul Ryan represent special interests, gas and oil companies, insurance sump companies. And I think it`s time that we have some real representation for the actual constituents of the First Congressional District, as opposed to special interest.
And the budget that Ryan — the Ryan budget is just icing on the cake as far as the amount of voter discontent in the First Congressional District.
HAYES: Are you surprised by what you`re seeing, in terms of people showing up at these town halls angry about the plan to end Medicare that Ryan has spearheaded? Is this coming as a surprise to you? Or have you sort of sensed that there was this sort of discontent already in the district?
ZERBAN: I`m not surprised by it. The proposal is so unpopular, you know. Taxing or reducing the taxes on the wealthiest and then balancing the budgets on the backs of those who will need Medicare is just a wrong proposal. And I`m not at all surprised by the reaction.
HAYES: I am wondering if you think the — I`d like you to comment a little bit about the sort of demographic bait and switch that the Republicans are pulling here. One of the things that`s really striking is when you look at people that are attending a lot of these town halls, you see people who are older than 55 often. And they`re angry.
And the response from Ryan in one of his town halls and Republicans around the country is don`t worry, we`re not changing things for you. And I wonder what you make of that argument. A, what it says about that plan, and, B, whether it`s resonating.
ZERBAN: Well, I don`t think it is resonating. I think you`re seeing seniors who are actually on Medicare and you`re seeing people who would eventually be taking advantage of this program, and they are all speaking out against it.
In fact, I was just out in Janesville yesterday meeting with a constituent. And this is Paul Ryan`s home town. And this gentleman told me how he has actually voted for Paul Ryan in every election. But this time, he just can`t do it.
And he`s hearing this from his friends. They just have a feeling that Paul Ryan has gotten so out of touch with the Wisconsin voters and what`s important to them, that they just can`t support him anymore.
HAYES: Finally, I want to ask you what the economic situation and the jobs picture looks like in the district. I know that there have been auto plants in the district. Some of those have been decimated over time, particularly even in the last several years. What is the job situation that the members — the constituents in the district are facing?
ZERBAN: Well, it`s pretty bad, Chris. We`ve seen the loss of the Janesville GM plant, the Chrysler plant close down. We have lost jobs there.
Paul Ryan has a credibility problem. In 1998, he campaigned as the paycheck protection candidate. And he`s been anything but. We have seen a mass exodus of jobs from the First Congressional District. And I actually — I like to refer to him as Pink Slip Paul.
HAYES: Rob Zerban, thanks so much for joining us, running against Paul Ryan in Wisconsin`s first district. Appreciate it.
ZERBAN: Thank you.