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Rob Zerban: The other guy trying to beat Paul Ryan (and why you haven’t heard of him)

By Megan Carpentier
Thursday, October 4, 2012 13:04 EDT
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[Image via Rob Zerban on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed.]
 
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On the Democrats’ list of top targets in the 2012 election, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is number two. Congressman Paul Ryan, on the other hand, doesn’t even make the list — even though recent polling has his Democratic opponent, Rob Zerban, almost within striking distance of Ryan. But Zerban’s FEC filings show that, of the $1.2 million in contributions he’d received as of July 2012 [update below], only $10 in in-kind email services came from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Zerban told Raw Story that he’s not sweating it. “It’s not money that’s going to win the race,” he said in an interview. “It’s the constituents that get to decide this race, not the monied special interests that line Ryan’s campaign’s coffers.”

Though he’s featured as an “Emerging Race” at the bottom of the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” site, Zerban said that the party has actually been working with his campaign in ways other than giving him money. “The DCCC has been very helpful from the beginning,” he said, “they helped me build the organization I have today.”

But that organizational support is up against Ryan’s flush Congressional campaign coffers ($5.4 million in cash as of the end of July, according to FEC reports) and a $2 million ad buy in the state for his Congressional race alone. Zerban, according to FEC reports, had just over half a million left in cash of his $1.2 million in contributions as of the end of July — and not nearly enough name recognition.

Zerban, however, thinks the national attention that Ryan is getting because of his Congressional run will work in the Democrat’s favor in the district. “He would talk a very moderate game in the district,” Zerban said, “and then he’d go to Washington and be very partisan, and no one really called him out on it. But with all the national press scrutinizing everything he’s ever done, people are seeing for the first time what he’s been proposing and rejecting that.”

“I even hear Republicans tell me why they can’t support the guy,” he added.

Zerban says that Ryan’s proposals for Medicare and Social Security are proving as problematic for him in the district as they have nationally. “These are popular things that people don’t want to see go away,” he said. For instance, he pointed out, “People don’t see how putting money from Social Security into the private market is a good idea. I mean, they just think ‘What if we’d had that money in the private market before the great recession?’”

As for Medicare, Zerban says his neighbors don’t feel too kindly toward Ryan’s plans, even if they are old enough to be exempted from his proposed changes. “They overwhelmingly feel Medicare works extremely well,” he said, “And they don’t want to see it privatized, turned into a voucher program for their children.”

“People in the district are telling me, ‘These are radical ideas, it’s a radical plan he’s proposing,’” he added. “They just don’t like it.” In the end, he thinks all the national press attention on Ryan’s plans for Social Security and Medicare will do for his campaign what the DCCC hasn’t spent the money to help him accomplish: bring constituents’ attention to Ryan’s plans and galvanize voters. “This is the first time people can go to the polls and vote on the candidate who wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare,” Zerban said. “He never campaigned on that before, but now he has to answer for it.”

He also thinks Romney’s comments about the 47 percent won’t play well in Ryan’s district. “With Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47 percent, it just shows where they really stand, how Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan really view the people here, the kind of glasses through which they see Americans,” Zerban stated. “While Mitt Romney may verbalize it, Paul Ryan shows through his actions, this kind of austerity he wants to impose on hard-working Americans, that he sees them the same way.”

“They just don’t get it.”

UPDATE (as of 5:05 pm ET on 10/4/2012): Zerban’s campaign released donation figures through September 2012, which showed that he raised over $770,000 between July and September 2012, putting his total donations at just under $2 million to date. In the same period, Ryan raised just over $566,000, putting his total campaign haul at approximately $6 million to date.

Zerban plans to being airing television ads in the district this weekend.
[Image via Rob Zerban on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
 
 
 
 
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