In the land of his ancestors, Paul Ryan’s Irish charm is failing him.
Despite his name, Roman Catholic faith and immigrant-made-good family history, the Irish half of the Republican ticket is failing to win the allegiance of the old country from Barack Obama, a skilled hand at playing the Irish card.
Obama struck public relations gold last year by sharing a Guinness with a distant cousin in the village of Moneygall after an amateur genealogist traced his ancestors there. Pictures of cheering Irish crowds were beamed across the United States.
But 100 kilometers (60 miles) down the road, Ryan’s ancestral hometown is feeling the cold shoulder and like Ireland as a whole, most of the locals are rooting for his Democratic presidential rivals.
“He doesn’t have the charisma, he hasn’t connected with the people,” said Pat Nolan as he strolled passed the 13th century stone church in the village of Graiguenamanagh where Ryan’s great-great grandparents were married.
“It doesn’t matter what his name is, it’s Obama that has made the effort,” said Nolan, 62, a retired physiotherapist.
In a recession-hit town where almost a third of the shops on main street are vacant, Obama’s promise to secure more visas for Irish immigrants and help attract U.S. investment has struck a chord.
Ryan’s pitch to slash public spending does not go down so well in a country reeling from years of austerity imposed after crippling bank debt forced the government to take a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in 2010.
Despite the Ryan connection, few locals are hoping for a Republican victory across the ocean.
“It would give a boost to a nice small town like this, but I would forgo it. I wouldn’t want to inflict him on the American people,” said Margaret, a 64-year-old cashier, upset by Ryan’s plans to cut welfare and Medicare health cover for the elderly. She withheld her family name to avoid angering her employer.