Ryan muddles origin of Reagan's 'are you better off' line
September 4th, 2012
04:09 PM ET
11 years ago

Ryan muddles origin of Reagan's 'are you better off' line

Westlake, Ohio (CNN) – Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan has been readily quoting Ronald Reagan's famous "are you better off" line this week but Tuesday he misstated when and where the Gipper made his remark.

The seven-term congressman from Wisconsin was 10 years old when Reagan uttered the line in 1980 that he and other Republicans have been pushing this week to frame their argument against Democratic President Barack Obama.

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"I remember a convention speech – I was a pretty young guy at the time but I remember a convention speech," Ryan said Tuesday in the make-or-break state of Ohio. "Remember Ronald Reagan talking about Jimmy Carter, are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Like a lot of people that line is seared in Ryan's memory but not everyone remembers when and where Reagan said it.

Reagan didn't use the line until just before the election during his only presidential debate with Carter. The rhetorical question in his closing remarks would come to define the 1980 election.

Ryan must have ad-libbed because that line was not in his prepared remarks, according to a campaign spokesperson.

"I think we can forgive a 10-year-old for mistaking a convention speech and a debate speech and vice versa," said Ryan spokesman Michael Steel.

This is the second unforced error for Ryan in two days and it comes as the candidate continues to face questions about his own convention speech and whether he accurately linked Obama to the closed GM plant in his hometown of Janesville.

The Romney campaign proactively reached out to reporters on Monday to point out that, during his Labor Day remarks in North Carolina, Ryan inaccurately described the number of bankruptcy filings under Jimmy Carter when he was comparing his record to Obama.

Ryan's campaign later clarified that he was mentioning total bankruptcy filings, not only business filings.

At Tuesday's rally outside of Cleveland, Ryan referred closely to his speech to clearly and accurately deliver the punch line. He said, "In 1980, total bankruptcy filings – that is personal and business bankruptcies – that is paychecks, that is family livelihood, that's jobs. In 1980, 331,000 total bankruptcies. Last year, 1.4 million."

"When it comes to jobs, President Obama makes the Jimmy Carter years look like good old days," Ryan said. "If we fired Jimmy Carter then why would we re-hire Barack Obama now?"

This was Ryan's sixth event in Ohio, which is a must-win state for the Republican ticket. With 18 electoral votes up for grabs, the battleground state is listed as a "toss-up" in the CNN Electoral Map.

Ohio's national unemployment rate, 7.2% in July 2012, is lower than the 8.2% national average. In Cuyahoga County, where Ryan visited, their unemployment spiked to 9.7% in February 2010 but their jobless rate has improved since Obama came into office, with their unemployment rate at 8.5% in January 2009 compared to 7.7% in July.

Filed under: 2012 • Ohio • Paul Ryan • President Obama
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. BBear

    So Paulie Walnuts intentionally misstates another fact. What's new? After the marathon time lie, I'm expecting Ryan to tell us he once caught a 300 pound muskie "noodling" in Wisconsin.

    September 4, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  2. lolo

    Romneyhood & Boy Wonder will go down in history just like McShame & Palin. Get a grip republicans. Your party is becoming a mockery. I heard that you are the party with more higher education. but from the looks of your candidates that you picked it must be an error.

    September 4, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  3. kayla

    we are better off today than we were 8 f ing years ago

    September 4, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  4. joe blow

    Romney can easily answer that question. He only needs to compare his two income tax returns: 2008 to 2011.

    September 4, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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