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Wisconsin GOP Mulls Replacement if Paul Ryan Is VP

With Rep. Paul Ryan’s name swirling in the veepstakes mix, local Republicans in Wisconsin’s 1st district are pondering what might happen if the Budget chairman ends up on the presidential ticket.

GOP insiders in the state said there has already been some quiet discussion about who would likely vie to succeed Ryan in a special election, should he get picked by Mitt Romney and the pair win the White House race in November. Presumptive state Speaker Robin Vos and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus top the list of potential GOP contenders in a district that the party would be favored to hold.

If Ryan were to be tapped as Romney’s running mate, his name would appear twice on the ballot in November — for vice president and for re-election to his 1st district House seat. Wisconsin election law stipulates that a candidate’s name cannot be removed from the ballot after the filing deadline, according to the state’s Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections. The state’s filing deadline has already passed and the primary is scheduled for Aug. 14, which could be right around the time Romney announces his running mate.

If Ryan were to win both races, the state would hold a special election in 2013 to replace him in the House.

Vos, who has served in the state Assembly since 2004, is a popular small-business man who has worked to cut the state’s deficit as co-chairman of the legislature’s Finance Committee. Political observers said he is likely to ascend to Speaker in the next session.

Vos praised Ryan as a “wonderful” choice for vice president but declined to speculate about the possibility of a Congressional run.

“I don’t want to comment on a hypothetical scenario. I’m currently focused on serving my district,” he said in a statement.

Priebus, who has wide name recognition as RNC chairman, has deep roots in the district. He was born and raised in Kenosha and served as Wisconsin GOP chairman before taking the national stage. Insiders on the ground in Wisconsin said a Congressional run would be an easy transition for Priebus.

“My personal belief is that Reince Priebus would be a shoo-in. … Politics is in his blood,” a Wisconsin GOP insider said. “Has he expressed interest? I would have to say no, but people have talked about it.”

Priebus declined to comment.

Small-business man and Kenosha County Board Supervisor Rob Zerban, Ryan’s opponent in the November election, would likely be the leading Democratic contender if a special election were to materialize.

Ryan, who has easily won re-election in seven terms, is heavily favored over Zerban. The dynamics of the district suggest that it would also be difficult for Democrats to flip the seat, which was made even more favorable to Republicans in redistricting. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would have carried the redrawn district by 3 points in the 2008 presidential election.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee lists the 1st district as an “Emerging Race” in its Red to Blue program, a designation that means it hasn’t broken through to the level of most competitive House races this cycle.

Zerban campaign spokeswoman Beth Pramme said the campaign is focused on the race at hand and declined to comment on a potential special election.

While the topic of a Romney-Ryan ticket has been discussed widely in the national handicapping of the veepstakes, many in the state insist that they still view a Ryan pick as highly unlikely.

“Would he take it if he were offered it?” University of Wisconsin professor and former state legislator Mordecai Lee asked. “I would eat my shoe on national television if he took it.”

But until official word comes from Romney, observers remain happy to speculate.

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