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

    Oh give it up, liberals! You are grasping for straws and it hurts to watch you flailing. Truth be told, however, we will witness a repeat of 1980 presidential election come November. So, be afraid, be afraid liberals!

    September 4, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. Clint

    The fact is that under Reagan most Americans were not better off. He raised the deficit, unemployment, and then to try to fix the problem raised taxes on the working class seven times.

    September 4, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  3. Corwin7

    That was what the Romney campaign spokesman meant about the Etch-a-sketch moment...the 8 years we spent going from surplus to abject poverty with a great depression topper.

    September 4, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. tone7de

    Boy, these groups the republicans speak too are sooooo diverse!

    September 4, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |

    Am I better off now than I was 4 years ago? Yes. This time 4 years ago is around the time my investments were losing money at a rapid rate. I recall around 4 years ago the DOW being around 6,500. It's at 13,000 today. A blind man can see we are better off now.

    September 4, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. Jim (retired AF colonel)

    This guy makes Palin look good!

    September 4, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  7. kenhbradshaw

    So correct when it was said and move on. I want the election decided on the economy. I don't care about Obama's birth cretificate. I don't care about Romney's tax return. I don't care about the memory of a ten year-old boy. I do care about jobs.

    September 4, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  8. Corwin7

    Romney/Ryan to Obama..."You've had 4 years to fix the colossal clusterflack that we didn't create!!!"

    September 4, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  9. Bob

    The Republican Party is really desperate. They have tried and tried again to come up with a catchy theme that boosts their campaign forward. None of their misrepresentations about Obama’s foreign policies, Medicare, Defense funding, the Affordable Care Act, leaking of secrets or presumed job killing regulations in the energy sector have struck a chord. They have failed miserably, primarily because they were misrepresentations and distortions of the facts. Now they are really disparate invoking god Reagan himself. Unfortunately, this is not 1980, hardly anyone with half a brain believes in trickle-down economics. If that were not enough the glaring fact is that Mr. Romney is no Reagan.

    September 4, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. kenhbradshaw

    So correct when it was said and move on. I want this election to be about the economy. I don't care about Obama's birth certificate. I don't care about Romney's tax return. I don't care about the memory of a ten year-old boy. I do care about jobs.

    September 4, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. kabulate

    For nearly four years I've heard nothing from Republicans in congress except a resounding "NO." Paul Ryan has been leading the charge since day one but he's never been held to account for his outlandish statements and claims. Now that he is being called to task he resorts to the same-old, same-old tactics, i.e. "I must have misspoken" or "It was a joke" or "It was a simple oversight." He lied through his teeth to the nation last week on live television. Why expect anything different today.

    Talk to people about this election. Ask them to vote for Obama. We cannot go back to the 1940s when women couldn't get contraception.

    September 4, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  12. Keeping it Real

    @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.

    And Obama has raised the National Debt to a new record level of 16 Trillion Dollars. In less than one term, Obama has raised the debt over 5 Trillion Dollars as opposed to 4.9 Trillion under Bush. It's time to stop blaming past administrations for Obama's failures.

    September 4, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  13. Corwin7

    @busterk According to the Republican party platform any U.S. terrirory is considered a state so how many do YOU count? ... Why are the idiots always so SURE they are the smartest person in the room?

    September 4, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  14. ted

    Some VPs, like Spiro Agnew, shoudl be seen not heard.

    September 4, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  15. Patrick Newland

    Who is Reagan?

    September 4, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. jesse james. take them to street and shoot them like the dogs they are

    @ keeping it real. Keep it real you idot.

    September 4, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. Four and The Door

    The Republican Party is really desperate. ...Unfortunately, this is not 1980, hardly anyone with half a brain believes in trickle-down economics.
    Well, Bob. What is it do you think that convinces a business owner to hire that next person they need? I can tell you what that last thought is. Can I afford it and will I be able to afford it next month and after that? So if the government does not tax private businesses to death, the chances of hiring are greatly increased. Call it whatever you want, but this is how it works. And American businesses paying the highest taxes in the industrialized world not only makes American products less expensive, it keeps unemployment higher as well.

    September 4, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  18. TomNPitt

    I'm wondering when Obama puts the foot on the accelerator.
    These two buffoons can't hold a cabdle to his persona, his charisma nor his political senses. This will not end up being close. It will end up being very devisive. It will be up to the republicanerz to accept the defeat and and move to the Progessive side of the room. That will be the signal the end has started for the all white, all old, all male republican era. The etcha-sketches will really be out then!!!

    September 4, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  19. Gaz

    Lying ryan lying? Wow! Up a conspiracy to reelect obama. If not. It shows that the masses dont know whats best for them and should get what they pay for.

    September 4, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  20. tyurip1

    Has anyone else noticed that even pro Mitt Romney posts have mostly negative comments!! I kid you not , The vast majority of Americans must despise these two. Don't take my word for it read the comments yourself on this or any pro Republican post. But yet the polls are even!! This tells us one of two possibilities either the Republicans are gearing up to rigg another election as in 2000 or their supporters are to dumb to work a computer.

    September 4, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |

    Would you trust these two Gop goofballs that lie 24. 7 with your mom and dads Medicare and soc sec trust funds ?????i if their 55 and under ,you will probably have to pay their Medicare bills and support them after they get their soc sec and Medicare cut .Lyin Ryan has been on the taxpayers dole his whole career and gets lifetime free health care for him and his dependents and would probably through his mother on it too .republicans have mom and dads to ,and you can pay like the rest of us ,except for romney the tax cheat . Does anybody even know what state the goof even lives in and where's your tax returns thief .the only thing these goofs know about bankruptcies is how many romney has caused ,public and business while at bain. Romney son of boss tax cheat !!!!!

    September 4, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. Sorensen

    Rubberface muddles everything.

    September 4, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  23. v_mag

    I've been waiting around to see something about this on CNN or other non-PBS networks, but no luck so far.

    No less than Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu has stated that George W. Bush and Tony Blair should be tried for war crimes.

    Why are they not in jail? I've been asking this for years. It is my biggest disappointment with Obama that he did not pursue war crimes indictments against Bush and Cheney.

    September 4, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  24. Lyin Ryan

    Ryan also ran a sub 3 hour marathon ... NOT!

    September 4, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |

    Vote Obama and the DEMS ,at least they didn't sign a pledge to a crook lobbyist rover nitwitquest.both romney the tax cheat and Lyin Ryan signed it along with most of the Gop bafoons ,BACHMANN too!!!!

    September 4, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
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