Romney Picks Paul Ryan As VP Nominee [VIDEO/POLL]
Governor Chris Christie has given his blessing to the choice of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate.
Christie said the addition of Ryan made “a team that understands the economic stagnation our country has been facing the last four years and the urgency with which we need to change course.”
“The Romney-Ryan team is uniquely positioned to make the tough choices necessary to confront our fiscal challenges and get results,” Christie said.
Romney’s campaign made the announcement via an iPhone app early Saturday morning and then formally introduced Ryan during an appearance at the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk, Virginia on board the USS Wisconsin.
The two men basked in the cheers of supporters in the ticket’s made-for-television debut. “I did not make a mistake with this guy,” Romney exulted.
“I am deeply excited and honored to join you as your running mate,” Ryan said in his first words at the podium.” He said that together, “we will restore the greatness of this country.”
“Regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem, and Mitt Romney is the solution” to an economy that has yet to make a strong recovery from the worst recession in decades, he
Romney, caught up in the moment, introduced Ryan as “the next President of the United States” before correcting himself.
OBAMA CAMPAIGN REACTION
The Obama campaign made their first comments about the Republican ticket as Ryan finished his first speech as nominee.
“The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid,” Jim Messina, the president’s campaign manager, said in a written statement. “His plan would also end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors,” he said.
The 42 year old Ryan is the architect of a conservative and intensely controversial long-term budget plan to remake Medicare and cut trillions in federal spending.
The tour will take Romney through North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Ohio. All are battlegrounds where Obama won in 2008. They hold 75 electoral votes combined, of the 270 needed to win the election.
WHO IS PAUL RYAN?
At 42, Ryan is a generation younger than the 65-year-old Romney.
Even before Wisconsin sent Paul Ryan to Congress, he was meticulously carving a path that seemed to point only upward.
As a young Capitol Hill staffer, he impressed Republican lawmakers with his hustle and intellectual curiosity. He blended quickly with an elite crop of conservative thinkers. By his 30s, he was a congressman on his way to becoming a GOP name brand with his push-the-edge budget proposals.
Ryan’s climb reached new heights Saturday when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced him as his running mate.
As the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan gives Romney a link to Capitol Hill leadership and underscores Romney’s effort to make the election a referendum on the nation’s economic course. Romney also could see his standing improve in Wisconsin, a state President Barack Obama won handily four years ago but that could be much tighter this November.
Even so, Ryan has been a double-edged sword for Romney. The congressman’s endorsement of Romney came at a critical stage of the GOP primaries, giving him a boost in the Wisconsin race that effectively buried Romney’s final threat. But it also meant Romney was embracing the Ryan-sponsored budget proposal that Democrats fiercely target as painful to the poor and elderly.
Still, the square-jawed congressman is viewed as a bridge between the buttoned-up GOP establishment and the riled-up tea party movement.
At 42, Ryan has spent almost half of his life in the Washington fold, the last 14 representing a southern Wisconsin district that runs from the shores of Lake Michigan through farm country south of Madison.
Ryan grew up in Janesville and still lives just down the block from where he spent his boyhood. His father, a lawyer, died of a heart attack when Ryan was a teenager. It’s why Ryan is a fitness buff, leading fellow lawmakers through grueling, early-morning workouts and pushing himself through mountain climbs.
That same intensity propelled him on the political front, too.
He was first exposed to Congress as a summer intern to Sen. Robert Kasten. With an economics degree in hand, Ryan worked his way through committee staff assignments, a prominent think tank and top legislative advisory roles until opportunity arose with an open seat from his home turf. He leveraged Washington connections, local ties forged through the family construction business and the backing of anti-abortion groups en route to his surprisingly comfortable victory.
As a 28-year-old, Ryan entered Congress brimming with idealistic views about forcing government to become leaner and less intrusive, principles he thought even fellow Republicans were abandoning too readily.
“One of the first lessons I learned was, even if you come to Congress believing in limited government and fiscal prudence once you get here you are bombarded with pressure to violate your conscience and your commitment to help secure the people’s natural right to equal opportunity,” Ryan wrote in a 2010 book.
Critics question Ryan’s own consistency. They note that he backed a costly prescription drug benefit during Republican George W. Bush’s presidency that added strain to the Medicare budget, which Ryan touted at the time as “one of the most critical pieces of legislation” enacted since he joined Congress. He said in a June interview with The Associated Press that he took a “defensive” vote to ward off a more expensive Senate version. More recently, Ryan served on a bipartisan presidential debt commission but balked at its report because a tax increase was on the menu of options.
He is a disciple of and past aide to the late Rep. Jack Kemp, once a GOP vice presidential nominee himself who effusively promoted tax cuts as a central tenet for economic growth.
From the title page of his idyllic “Path to Prosperity” budget plan down to the most scrutinized fine print, Ryan is adept at framing proposals in the most pleasant terms.
Ryan’s opponents charge that his call to open Medicare to more private competition is too risky even if implementation would be a ways off; he counters that the latest version was fashioned in consultation with prominent Democrats in hopes of heading off an all-out program collapse that would devastate the financial security of future retirees. Foes say his plans to scale back food stamps and housing assistance are mean-spirited; Ryan describes the moves, which would allow states to further customize their welfare programs while imposing tougher time limits and work requirements, as empowerment for the downtrodden who he argues are being lulled into lives of complacency and dependency.
It took time for Ryan’s own party to get fully behind his ideas. A few years ago, when Ryan first proposed dramatic changes to entitlement programs like Medicare some in the GOP were skittish because Democrats pounced on the plans as undermining the health program accessed by millions of retirees.
Kasten said Ryan’s refusal to back down paid off politically.
“If all the sudden you become the dartboard for everyone on the left and you are willing to stand there and take the heat and the darts, you develop a tremendous amount of respect even from those who are throwing the darts,” Kasten said. “In the beginning it’s a grudging respect. It grows into a true respect.”
Ryan has let opportunities to advance come and go, most recently when he opted not to seek an open U.S. Senate seat. His young family factored into his considerations; he and wife, tax attorney Janna, have a daughter and two sons.
PASSING UP GOVERNOR CHRISTIE
In turning to Ryan, Romney bypassed other potential running mates without the Wisconsin lawmaker’s following among rank-and-file conservatives, including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was widely believed to be on the short list as well. He will likely get to deliver the convention keynote address which will push him further onto the national stage and set him up for a possible 2016 run for the White House.
Republican officials said Romney had spoken with Pawlenty & Portman.
Ryan’s selection — as well as Romney’s own nomination — will be ratified by delegates to the Republican National Convention that begins on Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden will be nominated for a second term at the Democratic convention the following week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.