Despite Ryan's Heritage, Ireland Sticks With Obama

'Honorary Irishman' Popular in Land of GOP Veep's Ancestors

By Reuters

Published October 16, 2012.
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The lobby group Irish American Democrats says it is targeting Cuyahoga County in Ohio, a bellwether Irish area in a state where the election could be decided.

Ryan will find it far harder than Biden to take advantage of his Irish heritage, said Stella O’Leary, who heads the group.

“I find there is a kind of mild embarrassment on the half of Irish Americans who are Republicans,” she said. “They would all have originally have been Democrats, so the question is when did they change. Was it when they got a few dollars?”

The Republicans’ strongest card among Irish Catholics is their social conservatism, something used by Ronald Reagan, the most successful Republican in mobilising the Irish vote.

But Ryan and Romney are facing an election where social issues have not been dominant.

“It’s really all about Ohio. Both candidates are looking to gain footing any way that they can,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who said working-class Irish American Catholics were one group being targeted.

CHICAGO IRISH SCHOOL

Obama learned to play the Irish card when he was an Illinois senator scrambling for votes on the streets of Chicago.

A regular participant in Chicago’s St Patrick’s Day parade, Obama planned his triumphant trip to Ireland last year based on the work of a distant cousin and amateur genealogist, who tracked down the village where some of the president’s ancestors had lived.

By contrast, when retired anti-drugs officer Rick Barrett let the Ryan campaign know he had traced their candidate’s great-great grandparents’ homestead to near Graiguenamanagh, Republican staff made clear they didn’t have time to discuss it.

“He’s a numbers guy. He’s concentrating on the future of the country, but maybe he’s concentrating on that too much,” Barrett said. “Maybe needs to shake hands, pat a few backs and have a pint or two at an Irish bar.”


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