If Jack Ryan Wins: A Pre-election Postmortem

A military general, a state legislator, a teacher, and several successful businessmen are among the candidates we have to choose from next month. If the polls hold up, “Jack!” Ryan will be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, and that’s not a bad thing. Jack has proven he has what it takes to win the general election.

If Ryan does win, here’s my postmortem on his three major opponents.

Andy McKenna:

While Andy is competent and seemingly likeable, it’s my view that his campaign failed to take off because it simply looked and sounded like almost every other political campaign we’ve seen since the 1970s. It’s a guess on my part, but an educated one nonetheless, that Andy had too much input from establishment types. How else can you explain the use of “jobs” as a theme? Establishment types long ago forgot how to craft a message that resonates. Note to McKenna’s TV ad guys: watch the Jack Ryan ads and learn. Creativity rules in modern advertising. It should in political advertising as well.

Jim Oberweis:

Jim was often the best on the stump if you were to read a transcript of what he said. Smart, aggressive, and to the point. Actually hearing him say the words was another matter. Too often his demeanor shouted louder than his words. While a majority of voters might be angry, they prefer electing someone whose anger is channeled into positive energy and optimism. It’s my view that his dairy and immigration ads hurt him more than they helped. (Placing a very close second will make me only partially wrong on this last count. Second place is still second place.)

Steve Rauschenberger:

To compete at this level, you have to have the money to do so. If you’re a multi-millionaire you have a leg up. If you’re a veteran legislator and fundraiser like Rauschenberger, you also have a leg up. Candidates without personal wealth successfully raise money for federal offices all over the country so we know it’s possible. The problem for Steve was that Republican campaign contributors are more concerned with their own experience as taxpayers than his experience as a state legislator.

With all due respect to the others, I never considered them contenders. Not because they didn’t show potential, it’s just that politics, like life, isn’t fair, and sometimes it’s not difficult to gauge a candidate’s viability within weeks after they announce.

Finally, to Ryan.

I am encouraged by the fact that Jack has shown courage on one of the most pivotal issues of the day: education. The vast majority of Republican candidates and elected officials are ignorant about what ails our public school system, and if they do know, they’re too chicken to say anything lest they offend the teachers unions. In addition, Ryan’s short tenure as a teacher has been enough to insulate him in the minds of voters from the attacks of what I call the “Education Evil Empire.”

There is no better issue than public education to show what’s wrong with America: too much reliance on government. The solution-school choice-points to what’s right with America: the ability of Americans to solve problems on their own. The exact same principle applies to the two other big domestic policy problems we face: retirement (or social) security, and health care.

Ryan is right that education policy must be addressed at the federal level. National teachers unions and the public school education establishment are nearly monolithic in their perverse approach to education. We know from decades of experience that state legislators and local school boards are no match for the power of the teachers unions and groupthink administrators.

Of course Jack will have to step up his game to win the general election. I believe he can. If he improves enough, we will keep this U.S. Senate seat in Republican hands.

Image credit: Photo by Anne Ryan, Polaris Images.