On October 14, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was the speaker at a gathering of Young Republicans. Rather than discuss polarizing Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, Speaker Ryan instead spoke about the importance of young people getting out to vote for down-ballot Republicans in order to stop what he often calls the “liberal progressive” agenda.
At one point in his speech, Ryan emphatically stated, “If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?” However, this talking point in his speech absolutely backfired on Ryan. While listeners at the event didn’t really react, Sanders supporters got a hold of the quote, and it quickly went viral.
His quote became a talking point for encouraging young Progressives to go out and vote. Progressives and Sanders supporters across the nation were sending out the quote on social media with the comment, “Let’s Make it Happen.” When Senator Bernie Sanders heard about what Ryan said, he sent a message to his nearly four million followers on Twitter, saying, ” “I heard what @SpeakerRyan said: If the GOP loses the Senate, I’ll be the Budget chairman. Sounds like a good idea…”
If the Senate does switch to a Democratic majority following the election on November 9th, it isn’t certain if Sanders will chair the Budget Committee or the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Either way, with his incredibly high approval ratings both in his home state of Vermont and across the country, Sanders will play a large role in policy development and as a voice in the Senate.
Using Ryan’s comment, the Sanders’ fundraising team was able to bring in an astronomical $2.4 million dollars within seventy-two hours. So successful was the fundraising drive to support down-ballot Democrats, the Sanders camp and his supporters created the hashtag #ThanksPaul to show their appreciation for the Speaker’s gaffe. To put in perspective what effect Paul Ryan’s words had on progressive fundraising and the power of viral campaigning, the Sanders’ team crunched the numbers and reported that, “Paul Ryan helped raise more money from small donors for Democrats in three days than he did for Republicans in three months.”