JOYCE M. ROSENBERG
NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ On his way to becoming a congressman from his hometown of Janesville, Wis., Paul Ryan worked in a small business â¿¿ a construction company with roots that reach back to the firm that his great-grandfather started in 1884.
Although the future GOP vice presidential candidate worked at Ryan Inc. Central doing marketing for just a short time â¿¿ from 1997-98 â¿¿ that experience may help the Romney-Ryan ticket. The obstacles that small businesses face hiring more workers are among the biggest issues in this presidential election. The perception that Ryan understands their problems could bring in votes â¿¿ even though he was chosen largely because of his conservative stance on federal spending.
"I always appreciate folks who have spent time in the real world," says Nick Balletta, CEO of TalkPoint, a New York firm that runs online broadcasts for businesses. "In the real world, there's payroll that needs to be made, bills that need to be paid and customers that need to be satisfied."
The GOP might convince business owners that despite the brevity of Ryan's time at the company that "it was a valid experience and he would be more likely to understand their situation," says Trey Grayson, director of Harvard University's Institute of Politics. He also may appeal to independent voters including small business owners in parts of states like Wisconsin, Florida, Nevada, Illinois and Michigan that have struggled more than other areas of the country, says David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif.
"Ryan helps at some level in certain states," he says. "It's an open question of whether he helps in the big picture."
Both Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden have spent almost all their working lives in politics. Biden was elected to the New Castle, Del., County Council shortly before he turned 27 and to the Senate when he was nearly 30. Ryan was 28 when he was elected to Congress. Biden's resume doesn't include time at a small business, but he talks about the financial struggles of his father, who lost money in business ventures, had to move in with Biden's grandfather and had jobs that included cleaning boilers and managing a car dealership. That has helped voters identify with his middle-class childhood, McCuan says.