Ryan muddles origin of Reagan's 'are you better off' line
September 4th, 2012
04:09 PM ET
8 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. Larry

    This guy is a mess! The GOP must be proud of this ticket....what a joke they both are. Lying through the teeth on most all that they spew. Are voters nuts?

    September 4, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    In those Reagan' stuff worked–not now. Every one knows that idiot trickle down nonsense is the sole root cause of this current disaster. Admit this fact. Yes, on obama12.

    September 4, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  3. Russ

    The GOP just shoots from the hip. They have no concern of how much truth there is to anything they say because the lame Republican base beleives everything they say. Fact check doesn't exsist in their world.

    September 4, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. Timmeh

    I can't wait to see the "fact checkers" take apart the Dems this as they have with such important issues as this and marathon times. okay, I know CNN will give a free ride to the Democrats this week After all, they're supporting Obama!

    September 4, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    "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.
    -----------------------–
    Mr. Chairman, Paul Ryan is not a ten year old boy. He's an adult running for V-POTUS, who supposedly has a reputation for being the smartest guy in the room. He's also a guy who has played fast and loose with facts in recent weeks, and he should have learned some lessons by now. He hasn't learned anything, but he has learned in conservative values well. Ryan is a very good Republicans, just like you, Mr. Chairman.

    September 4, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  6. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Can someone please remind Congressman Ryan that President Reagan presided over two things that are anathema to Republicans today: He grew the size of the Federal Government over what he inherited from Jimmy Carter, and after realizing his supply side tactic of lowering taxes to stimulate growth didn't work, he raised taxes to make up for his budget shortfalls (also known as deficits when it is a Democratic President and a Republican Congress). Unfortunately it took until the Clinton Administration for that "shortfall" to become a Surplus, and less than two years into the next Republican administration for not only the surplus to become a shortfall (or deficit if you prefer) and the Federal Government to grow again.

    September 4, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  7. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Comparing statistics from 2011 to the ones from 1980? What, are they embarrassed about Bush 43?

    September 4, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    @Timmeh
    I can't wait to see the "fact checkers" take apart the Dems this as they have with such important issues as this and marathon times. okay, I know CNN will give a free ride to the Democrats this week After all, they're supporting Obama!

    September 4, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
    *****************************************************************************************************************
    Would you like some Havarti cheese with that red whine?

    September 4, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  9. independent

    This guy, Lyin Ryan, just makes stuff up as he goes along. I wouldn't trust this guy as far as I can throw him. He is pathological when it comes to this stuff. What could you possibly trust him with if he would lie about inconsequential things like this and his running times?

    September 4, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Timmeh wrote:

    I can't wait to see the "fact checkers" take apart the Dems this as they have with such important issues as this and marathon times. okay, I know CNN will give a free ride to the Democrats this week After all, they're supporting Obama!
    -------------
    No need. I have noticed that Democrats tell the truth far more often than Republicans. I also believe that Democrats have enough sense to not overly exaggerate or make grossly misleading statements like the Republicans did last week.

    September 4, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. Maxx

    Keep talking Paul, it's going so well. Sub 3 hour marathon time, right. Just shows how dishonest you are. Perfect match with Romney.

    September 4, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. Four and The Door

    The important point is, " Are you better off now than when Obama took office?" I will tell you who is not. The middle class. These are the people who have been brutalized most by the failed economic recovery. These are the people who if they are lucky enough to be working are probably working for 20% less than they made 5 years ago. But they are also the largest number of voters. So now that it is election year he touts himself as the Savior of The Middle Class...Your Guy in Washington. No thanks. We have lived Obama's flavor of "help for the middle class" and we can do better. Soon.
    Romney/ Ryan 2012.

    September 4, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Republicans are quick to criticize Democrats for invoking Bill Clinton, but are even quicker to invoke Ronald Reagan themselves.

    September 4, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. independent

    There he goes again.

    September 4, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  15. Woman In California

    The man is a total liar just like his counterpart Willard and I can't wait, for Joe Biden to call him out on ALL of his many lies. Biden is going to wipe the floor with this liar and Ryan won't be able to do a thing about it. Biden should hit him HARD and FAST. Get ready to witness the most watched vice presidential debate in history, because it's going to be a good one.

    Go get him Joe!

    September 4, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  16. incredulous

    I didn't think the GOP could come up with a more ridiculous bunch of clowns when it came to their Presidential candidates, apparently the selection for VP candidates was even worse.

    September 4, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  17. sonny chapman

    Are you better off ? YES, if you're a Midwest Auto Worker, have Pre-Existing Medical Conditions, gay & serving in the Military, was serving in Iraq or is coming out of Afghanistan(remember that place?), have a Lili Ledbetter Claim, fought through Repossession, like clean energy, didn't think America needed to dive headfirst alone into Libya. NO if you're Bin Laden & hundreds of other departed el Quida members.

    September 4, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. Yonni

    I am sure this stage is too big for Ryan. He is another insult on the intelligent of American public. After all he was hyped by the Republican Party to become the nominated VP. Just like Palin they will vet him in public. I am sorry for him

    September 4, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  19. BusterK

    So Reagan said it at a debate and not in a speech? Wow, what a total screw up! The man is obviously completely unqualified to be VP! Almost as bad as that guy who said there were 57 states! I remember CNN being all over that whopper! Oh, wait...

    September 4, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  20. Wes B.

    We all know politicians bend the truth some. And we know most even lie. But wow, this guy seems okay with it.

    September 4, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  21. Lying Ryan - My memory was distorted by a back injury.

    If only the dems had enough money to highlight how flawed their lying opponents are.

    The serial lying continues.....................

    September 4, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  22. beevee

    Anything this pathological liar may please the GOPers, but a lie is a lie. The voters won't trust him unless one is blind to facts.

    September 4, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  23. Jack

    It doesn't matter. Ryan just makes things up. Like his bragging he did the marathon in under 3 hours. Just makes it up. Is he a liar or just stupid? Is he the new Palin? Lyin' Ryan.

    September 4, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  24. Ken

    As with most Republicans, the truth never seems to interfere with what they say! (Especially when it comes to the last Bush)

    September 4, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  25. HincEtInde

    I am pretty sure that Ryan is better off........................

    September 4, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
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