OTR Interviews

Road to November: Battleground Wisconsin

Romney supporter Rep. Paul Ryan takes on Wisconsin's recall election and its possible effect on the 2012 White House race


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 2, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is back home in the home state campaigning with Governor Mitt Romney. And earlier tonight we caught up with Congressman Ryan right here in Milwaukee.


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: Welcome home.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you very much. It's always nice to be home, especially among oil drums.

RYAN: It's great, isn't it? This is the economy. This is people working.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed it is.

RYAN: This is Milwaukee.

VAN SUSTEREN: Wonder to feel be home. I want to ask about the election tomorrow, the primary. This is an open primary. So explain this to me.

RYAN: We don't have party registration in Wisconsin. You can walk in whoever you are and say I want the Republican ballot or the Democratic ballot and vote for whoever you want in the Republican or Democratic Party. Like you heard in Michigan, you know there is a concern about the crossover voting, democrats voting in the presidential primary for Republicans to vote for whoever is the worst candidate for Obama to face. That is a concern we have in Wisconsin.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you hearing any noise from any organization or anything?

RYAN: Not really. I don't know the answer to that. I have not heard of anything. Sometimes you the robo-call campaigns about crossover voting, but I've not heard of any in this particular case.

VAN SUSTEREN: This is a big primary, because this could be the one if Governor Mitt Romney wins tomorrow could --

RYAN: Yes, that's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Even if Senator Santorum wins big in Pennsylvania.

RYAN: Yes, that's right. If tomorrow Mitt Romney wins Wisconsin and then Maryland and D.C., I think Rick would have to win something like 82 of the rest of the delegates. I just don't see how he can put it together. This is among the reasons we're endorsing Romney. Number one, he is the best person to be president. I spent time with him, going through details, the budget, time of year 2013 has to be to get America back on track. I am convinced he has the conservative principles to put it in action. So I think he'll be the best president.

I also think he has the best chance of becoming president, of beating Barack Obama. Tuesday, tomorrow, we think we can make a difference in that. If he wins Wisconsin and the other two states it's far out in the lead. So if he wins Wisconsin and these other two states, it puts him really far out in the lead, and I would think it makes him a prohibitive nominee. That's why we're saying conservatives coalesce around the nominee because I personally thing this primary has been productive, but I think we are moving to the counterproductive phase where if this thing drags out much longer it will make it that much harder to beat Barack Obama in the fall.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you look at history, you might have an uphill battle. In 2008, President Obama took the state by 14 points. Two years later, Republican governor Scott Walker won by five points, which is a big turnaround. But now he is taking a lot of heat. He has a recall in June. So things seem topsy-turvy here.

RYAN: George Bush lost Wisconsin by one-half of one point both times. Last time with Obama, John McCain stopped campaigning here in September. His campaign didn't exist. So Obama ran up the score. I think the last election where Scott Walker and Ron Johnson won, took two state House seats and the state Senate. We have feel like we have a chance as Republicans. I think Mitt Romney is in the best position to win states like ours, Ohio and Wisconsin, which are the states to determine this whole thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about Governor Walker, this recall in June? This is going to -- I mean it seems like it's gotten ugly. It's going to be a fight on both sides.

RYAN: Huge fight. We're told that the unions around the Connecticut are going to spend something like $40 million in Wisconsin between now and June 5 with the recall ends. So it's going to be a massive effort, a big fight. I think Scott will win. You know why I think Scott will win? Because the forms are working. The point of reform --

VAN SUSTEREN: There are almost a million signatures for recall.

RYAN: Sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: A lot of journalists and judges.

RYAN: Did you notice that in the reporters and judges signing the recall position, objective people.

But more to the point, I met with the school district superintendent of a small school district of a district I represent the other day because of Scott Walker's reforms she saved $1.6 million just in her school district on being able to put health insurance out for bid because she doesn't have to use teachers union monopoly insurance plan anymore. She saved $1.6 million. She put reforms in the classroom to make education better because of the reform. So these Walker reforms kept taxes low, didn't require massive layoff of teacher and public workers. It didn't require the government services. It helped balance the budget without raising taxes. Those reforms are working.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess if I were Governor Walker I would have the confidence you have, but for the fact that the recall petition has so many signatures on it. Even when I was doing reporting on it, I got an e-mail from a friend of mine who teaches at the University of Wisconsin. I haven't heard from her in 25 years, practically took my skin off she was so angry. There is real anger toward the governor.

RYAN: They are very angry. But I think as people learn the facts if they learn about how the reforms are working, not just the state level but the local level, I think by and large, Wisconsinites will not vote to recall. I think recall over a policy dispute I don't think is called for. If people don't like what Scott Walker did, which is what he said he'd do in campaigning the normal course of election is when they should vote for somebody else.

VAN SUSTEREN: Outside money coming to the state for his opponent and outside money coming for --

RYAN: I imagine so.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it's interesting how this is becoming a national election.

RYAN: It was said in a major newspaper the other day, this is the most important election this year after the presidential election, because I would say courage is on the ballot. What legislator would have the courage to address problems in the state if they do this this is what happens to them? That's really profound. Scott is taking on the drivers of the debt in Wisconsin. We're taking on our drivers of debt in Washington. We're going to be attacked from the political adversaries. They're not offering solutions, just more debt and decline. We're offering the solutions. We will be attacked for offering solutions. People are bigger than that. I think the American people want to be treated like adults not pandered to like children, and they're ready for real solutions and honest talk.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir.

RYAN: Thank you.