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Paul Ryan's black ex-girlfriend: What does it mean to Election 2012?

Presumptive VP nominee Paul Ryan's 2005 comment that he once dated a black woman has prompted discussion about whether that fact changes views of his character and policy.

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Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, shakes hands following a campaign event at Partnership for Defense Innovation in Fayetteville, N.C., Thursday. (AP Photo/

Sara D. Davis/AP

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Presumptive vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan’s recently unearthed comment from 2005 that he had a black girlfriend in college has put a new twist in the race for the White House, inviting comparisons with recent revelations about how President Obama has portrayed the importance of his own interracial dating years ago.

To be sure, to many Americans, Congressman Ryan’s college dating life is a nonstory, just as it was in Mr. Obama's case. But given that Ryan's policies are portrayed by some as being detrimental to the African-American community, the report could color impressions of his character and the proposals he espouses.

So far, Ryan hasn’t made any further comments about the mystery college girlfriend, though his campaign has confirmed the report. Some college buddies reached by reporters couldn’t remember a black girlfriend. But discussion has been percolating on the Internet about what the news means – if anything.

ChicagoNow columnist John Chatz, who is white and is married to a black woman, says the nugget may earn Ryan new respect and another look from minority voters. But it also could become a negative “in some of Chicago’s most famous, all-white, intolerant neighborhoods.”

“Political pundits may wonder how Ryan will use this relationship to advance himself or to make himself more credible,” writes Mr. Chatz. “Ryan is now placing himself way beyond the ‘I have black friends’ category and entering a world where few would dare to tread.”

It was Keli Goss, a political reporter with the black-centric The Root website, whose essay, “Does Paul Ryan’s black ex-girlfriend matter?” set off the debate after CNN’s Peter Hamby tweeted the news.

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