Romney selects Paul Ryan as running mate
The pick is likely to draw a sharp line between Mitt Romney and President Obama’s visions of rebuilding the economy.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential running mate, the campaign announced Saturday.
The selection of Ryan, 42, is meant to shore up conservative support for Romney and give the ticket the party’s intellectual leader on domestic policy to prosecute its case against President Obama’s economic record. But the selection of Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, will also provoke Democrats, who are deeply opposed to Ryan’s budget plan which would transform Medicare for future beneficiaries and enact trillions in spending cuts without raising taxes.
Observers are calling the Ryan pick “bold” because politicians have rarely succeeded in campaigning on the national level on cuts to entitlement programs. But Republicans are betting the strategy succeeds, perhaps based on the GOP’s victory in transforming public pensions in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin.
Democrats are looking to turn the pick against Romney, arguing to core constituent groups like minorities and also to middle class voters that Ryan’s plan will hurt them. The campaign now appears to be shifting into a blistering debate over policy with both sides holding fundamentally different views.
Ryan in his first appearance together with Romney Saturday morning said that the Obama campaign has failed to make tough choices to fix the economy, and that a GOP administration would.
“We won’t duck the tough issues…we will lead. We won’t blame others…we will take responsibility. We won’t replace our founding principles…we will reapply them,” Ryan said aboard the U.S.S. Wisconsin docked in Norfolk, Va. “We will honor you, our fellow citizens, by giving you the right and opportunity to make the choice: what kind of country do we want to have?”
Romney’s choice was reported by multiple outlets early Saturday morning, and the campaign officially confirmed it through an announcement to supporters on an iPhone app and social media.
This is what the “Mitt’s VP” app looked like on Saturday morning, replete with a picture of Romney and Ryan.
The choice of Ryan is a high-risk, high-reward proposition for Romney. On one hand, Ryan is a rising star in the party who is loved in establishment Republican circles and among conservatives. Right-leaning publications such as the National Review, Weekly Standard, and Wall Street Journal urged Romney to pick him over the past week.
The pick could excite conservatives, many of whom believe Romney has failed to define a broader vision for his candidacy. Romney’s campaign had been reeling over the past few weeks, trailing Obama significantly in several national polls. Romney’s VP pick could be seen as an effort to shake up the campaign after weeks of speculation that he would make a so-called “safe choice” such as Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Romney also passed over other “bold” choices for running mate, such as Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whom some observers believe could have improved Romney’s image problem among Latino voters.
Conservatives argue that Ryan, the budget architect, will allow Romney to draw fundamental differences from Obama on issues such as the size and scope of government and economic growth in an election in which the economy is considered the top issue by voters.
But Democrats appear to be equally excited by the pick.
The biggest reason Ryan is popular with conservatives could do him in with other voters like seniors, Democrats argue. Ryan’s “Path for Prosperity” would largely keep Medicare as is for people 55 and over, but many future retirees would instead receive subsidies to pay for private insurance programs, instead of direct benefits. It also calls for the repeal of President Obama’s healthcare law.
Democrats argue that the controversial proposal would gut benefits for seniors, which could be a political albatross in states with large amount of retirees, like Florida. But Republicans counter that the changes are needed to keep the program from becoming insolvent in future decades.
A full quarter of spending cuts ($300 billion over ten years) backed by Ryan and passed by the House this year would come from social programs that benefit the poor, such as Medicaid, food stamps, and a child tax credit for working immigrants, the Associated Press reported in May. Ryan’s “Path” calls for $5 trillion in cuts.
The Obama campaign immediately pounced on Romney’s pick of Ryan, saying the VP nominee’s plan would “end Medicare as we know it.”
“In naming Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy,” said campaign manager Jim Messina. “As a member of Congress, Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy. Now the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same, catastrophic mistakes.”
“Just like Sen. John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin and George H.W. Bush’s selection of Dan Quayle, Mitt Romney has been cowed by the right wing into choosing an extreme vice presidential nominee who will alienate moderate voters,” said Neera Tanden of the liberal Center for American Progress.
Per CNN, the Romney campaign is already prepping for an all out attack on Ryan’s plan on Medicare from Democrats. Even though Romney chose Ryan as running mate, his campaign’s document of official talking points suggest that he still has not fully embraced Ryan’s controversial budget blue print.
“·Of course they aren’t going to have the same view on every issue. But they both share the view that this election is a choice about two fundamentally different paths for this country,” the talking points say.
While Ryan earned praise for his speech from political observers, the event was first interrupted by a Romney slip-up: he referred to Ryan as the “next president of the United States. Romney appeared loose as he cleaned up the gaffe, saying he occasionally makes mistakes but “I did not make a mistake with this guy,” pointing to Ryan.
Video here, courtesy of BuzzFeed:
Obama made a nearly identical gaffe in 2008 while introducing Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate.
Ryan’s relationship with Latinos
The selection of Ryan isn’t likely to move the needle with Latino voters the way a choice like Rubio may have.
It’s true that Ryan has a growing Latino population in his district and now conducts some bilingual voter town halls, but he is hardly known among Latinos nationwide. Ryan’s positions on economic issues are out of step with the majority opinion among Latino voters, according to a Latino Decisions analysis and he’s taken some past votes on immigration that have provoked some activists.
In any case, Romney’s campaign is making it clear that the choice of Ryan isn’t about appealing to groups of voters, but about a broader debate of economic visions.
“Mitt isn’t thinking about Ohio or the Hispanic vote. He’s thinking: ‘I’m gonna be president. Who’s going to help me succeed?’” a Romney advisers told Politico Saturday.
Politic365 posts about how the choice of Ryan might not play well among black and Latino voters, since Ryan’s budget affects social programs that disproportionately aid those communities:
“While the selection of Paul Ryan is most likely intended to solidify Romney’s conservative positioning especially considering that Romney created the template for ‘Obamacare’ while serving as Governor of Massachusetts, this veep pick is probably not going to help Romney attract voters of color,” writes Adriana Maestas.
Reducing Medicare benefits, for example, is unpopular among Latino voters, and Ryan’s plan would reduce payments for future beneficiares under the age of 55. Seventy-three percent of Latino voters told Latino Decisions in Oct. 2011 they oppose Medicare cuts.
Ryan has also gone to bat for Romney on immigration, as issue that has contributed to Romney’s flagging popularity among Latinos. The congressman also voted for a failed immigration crackdown bill in 2005 that would have toughened criminal violations of immigration law and shifted some enforcement responsibility to state and local entities, The Hill reported in May. The bill would have also required the construction of 700 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In an April 2011 town hall, Ryan drew the ire of some Latinos when he used the phrase “anchor babies” and said they “cost money.”
The phrase has been used by some to refer to babies born to undocumented residents of the United States.
News Taco, a Latino daily, wrote of the incident, “[It’s] like saying U.S. citizen children cost money — how is it worse when they’re Latino kids?”
The meeting also erupted into chaos when he mentioned “catch and release” with one woman in the audience asking whether he was referring to humans or fish.
Ryan also voted against the DREAM Act in 2010.
“It is clear Paul Ryan does not stand with the Latino community since he has not only defended Romney on immigration but also deployed degrading terms including “anchor babies” in speaking about immigrants and their families,” said Erika Andiola, an immigration activist from Arizona who leads the group DRM Capitol.
(Photo: Flickr, Gage Skidmore)