“The surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race,” Mr. Ryan said in an interview with WISC-TV back home in Wisconsin on Monday before returning Tuesday to Capitol Hill for the start of the lame-duck session.
“When we watched Virginia and Ohio coming in,” Mr. Ryan said, “and those ones coming in as tight as they were and looking like we were going to lose them, that’s when it became clear we weren’t going to win.”
Mr. Ryan, now a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has repeated the sentiment in subsequent interviews. And he is not the only conservative who has embraced the notion that a surge of voters in urban America gave Mr. Obama the prize, as many Republicans try to come to grips with how an election they believed was theirs for the taking instead got away.
But his voice carries new weight as he returns to Congress with a larger responsibility to help lead his party back to the White House in the years ahead. Mr. Ryan’s blunt assessment of the failures of his ticket are sure to shape the party’s political future even as he returns to the immediate business of the fight over spending and taxes.
Mr. Ryan’s concerns follow on the heels of other Republicans who argue that the party’s lack of appeal to minority voters — many of whom live in the nation’s largest urban centers — has made it more difficult to win the presidency.
There is some anecdotal evidence to back up the analysis that Mr. Obama was helped by his appeal in the nation’s population centers. In Philadelphia and Ohio, for example, local news reports have documented dozens of city precincts where Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan failed to get a single vote. And in Ohio, turnout among blacks, many of whom live in urban areas, increased significantly over 2008.
In the nation’s largest cities, exit poll data show that the president won overwhelmingly, earning almost 7 out of every 10 votes. In some states, like Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama did even better in the big cities, winning 85 percent of the vote. Mr. Romney won the nation’s suburbs by a narrow margin.
But pointing to urban voters for the Republican failure to win last week does not take into account that the Republican ticket also lost big in some rural, mostly white states, like Iowa and New Hampshire.
And there is little proof from the results of the election that urban turnout over all played the decisive role in swing states like Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia or Wisconsin, where Mitt Romney lost in Mr. Ryan’s suburban home district.
“What Paul Ryan misses is that the Republicans have been losing the urban vote for a long, long time,” said Marc Morial, the president and chief executive of the National Urban League. “Now they are losing the suburban vote, too. They are becoming more urban in their character, in their makeup, in the problems.”
In Ohio, for example, Mr. Obama received 63,000 fewer votes in the three big urban counties in 2012 than he did in 2008. In the big urban counties in Virginia, Colorado, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama also won by smaller margins than in 2008, typically receiving fewer votes. In Milwaukee, voter turnout did increase, but the Romney/Ryan ticket picked up more than half of the increased number of voters there.
Mr. Morial said he did not know why Mr. Ryan was focusing attention on the nation’s urban core as the cause of the Republican losses. But he said the decision by Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan not to attend his group’s annual conference was not a good sign that Mr. Ryan wants more outreach in the future.
“Certainly those types of comments do not suggest that those who lost last Tuesday are interested in an open dialogue about the challenges that our communities face,” Mr. Morial said.
Democrats say that Mr. Ryan’s remarks mask the larger issues behind the loss, and represent an inability to grasp other factors behind it.
“In our state, urban voters had two good reasons to come out,” said Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania. “One was to support the president, and the other was the state had tried to implement voter ID laws. But assigning one factor to the case of an electoral defeat is usually pretty dangerous.”
Representative Michael M. Honda, Democrat of California, said that “urban” is “just another code word for people of color.”
“But a lot of people of color live in the countryside, too,” he added. “He is just grabbing at straws to justify his loss.”
In an interview broadcast Tuesday with ABC News, Mr. Ryan said he did not think that the nation’s voters had given Mr. Obama a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy.
“I don’t think so, because they also re-elected the House Republicans,” Mr. Ryan said. “So whether people intended or not, we’ve got divided government. This is a very close election, and unfortunately divided government didn’t work very well the last two years. We’re going to have to make sure it works in the next two years.”
Some of Mr. Ryan’s aides said that as a candidate he had hoped to spend more time in poor urban areas to explain his theories of fighting poverty, and was restrained by his schedule. He gave an antipoverty speech in Cleveland, one of a handful of such events.
Not all his colleagues agree with Mr. Ryan’s analysis, arguing that the party needs to focus on reaching a broader coalition.
“We lost many demographic groups,” said Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. “The issue to me is why. I don’t think we are one comprehensive immigration bill away from winning Hispanic voters, any more than we are one marginal rate increase from economic nirvana.”
Original article on The New York Times