Paul Ryan is not feeling the love from Ireland that President Obama is continuing to receive, despite also having Irish roots.
Reuters reports from Vice Presidential hopeful Paul Ryan’s ancestral home, the village of Graiguenamanagh in Kilkenny, Ireland, on the locals’ opinion and perception of Ryan.
"It doesn't matter what his name is, it's Obama that has made the effort," said Pat Nolan, 62, a retired physiotherapist and Graiguenamanagh native.
Nolan continued, “He doesn't have the charisma, he hasn't connected with the people." Nolan was speaking from outside of the 13th century stone church where Paul Ryan's great-great grandparents were married.
While Ryan’s genetic roots may be closer to Ireland than Obama’s are, Obama has succeeded in winning over the Irish admiration. Last year’s visit to Moneygall in Offaly, where Obama was famously photographed having a pint of Guinness with the locals, won the affections of the Irish there as well as many in the US.
Even further, Obama’s promises for immigration reform and the securing of US visas have captured the hearts of the thousands of Irish who are emigrating away from their economically struggling home.
Obama’s appeal to the Irish and Irish Americans is nothing new. Reuters writes how he learned to play the Irish card when he was an Illinois senator scrambling for votes on the streets of Chicago. He also regularly participated in the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade.
So when an amateur genealogist made the definitive yet distant Irish connection for Obama, the focus on it was a no-brainer.
Despite Ryan’s closer genetic ties to Ireland, the locals in his ancestral hometown - just 60 miles away from Obama’s - aren’t throwing their support his way too quickly.
"It would give a boost to a nice small town like this,” said 64-year-old Margaret, who is a cashier in Graiguenamanagh, “but I would forgo it. I wouldn't want to inflict him on the American people.”
Margaret, who withheld her last name as to not anger her employer, felt upset by Ryan's plans to cut welfare and Medicare health cover for the elderly in the US.
A straw poll of 20 people in the town saw 12 people supporting Obama and Biden, and none for Romney and Ryan.
On the larger scale, Ireland isn’t giving its support to the Romney-Ryan ticket. A September poll conducted by Gallup International of 1,000 Irish people saw a staggering 96 percent supporting Obama and Biden for the upcoming election were they able to have a vote in the election.
Martin Brett, former mayor of Kilkenny, said that Ryan is “too far right-wing for this part of the world.” Brett hosted Ryan's uncle when he came to trace his roots in the region a few years ago.
Brett did go on to add with a smile, however, that, "If they [Romney and Ryan] won, the invitations would be in the post.”
Aside from failing to personally appeal to the Irish, Ryan has used Ireland as an example of poor economic policy. On his website, Ireland is mentioned eleven times, with “eight as an example of the economic doom facing the United States if it doesn't address its budget deficit and three as a rival to the Cayman Islands as a tax haven threatening American jobs,” reports Reuters.
While the Irish-American vote may not be as vital as it has been in the past, such as it was for President John F. Kennedy, it still carries some weight. Niall O’Dowd, publisher of The Irish Voice and IrishCentral.com, told Reuters that the Irish-American “vote tends to be a bellwether vote. If it swung decisively behind Obama or Romney , it would certainly mean that person would win the election.”
Thus, the “pockets” of Irish Americans in key swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio will have a lot of influence on November 6th.
"The Irish Catholic vote went for (Democrat) Bill Clinton. It went narrowly for (Republican John) McCain over Obama. I'd say on this occasion it will be 50-50," O'Dowd told Reuters..
O’Dowd added that Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan, similar to Obama’s choice of Joe Biden, came as an effort to appeal to white Catholics.
Stella O’Leary, head of the lobby group Irish American Democrats, said that as a Republican, Ryan will probably have more difficulty securing the Irish American support than Joe Biden would.
"I find there is a kind of mild embarrassment on the half of Irish Americans who are Republicans," O’Leary said. "They would all have originally have been Democrats, so the question is when did they change. Was it when they got a few dollars?"
Reuters explained that, “The Republicans' strongest card among Irish Catholics is their social conservatism, something used by Ronald Reagan, the most successful Republican in mobilizing the Irish vote.”
However, social issues haven’t taken the forefront in 2012’s election.
"It's really all about Ohio. Both candidates are looking to gain footing any way that they can," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, who said working-class Irish American Catholics were one group being targeted.
Similarly, O’Leary’s group of Irish American Democrats is also focused on Ohio and is targeting Cuyahoga County, described as a bellwether Irish area in a state where the election could be decided.
Rick Barrett, a retired anti-drugs officer, had informed Ryan’s campaign about the connection he made between Paul Ryan and his great-great grandparents’ home of Graiguenamanagh. The campaign staff, however, didn’t feel the information was necessary.
"He's [Ryan] a numbers guy. He's concentrating on the future of the country, but maybe he's concentrating on that too much," Barrett said. "Maybe needs to shake hands, pat a few backs and have a pint or two at an Irish bar."
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