Mitt Romney announces Paul Ryan as running mate for US presidential election
REPUBLICAN United States presidential candidate Mitt Romney yesterday picked the tax-cutting, right-winger Paul Ryan to be his running mate.
• Mitt Romney picks Paul Ryan as vice presidential candidate for US election
• 42-year-old Wisconsin politician is favoured by right-wing Tea Party movement
His choice sends a strong signal about Romney’s approach to government as Ryan is a staunch conservative who has been at the heart of efforts to slash public spending.
The announcement was made on a Romney campaign app, which said: “Mitt’s choice for VP is Paul Ryan. Spread the word about America’s comeback team.”
Official confirmation of Ryan as Romney’s number two followed widespread speculation over whether the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman would end up as the running mate, and marks the end of a search that has lasted for several months for a Republican ticket to take on Democratic president Barack Obama and vice-president Joe Biden in the 6 November contest.
The choice of Ryan will bring the debate over how to reduce government spending and debt to the forefront of the race for the White House.
Republican sympathisers, increasingly anxious over the state of Romney’s campaign, had urged him to spurn reliable, but not particularly inspiring, figures such as the Ohio senator Rob Portman and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
It is understood Romney has spoken to Ryan’s main Republican rivals to inform them of his decision.
Ryan is a favourite of the conservative Tea Party, an anti-tax, limited-government movement that helped Republicans take over the House of Representatives in 2010.
Romney said: “There are a lot of people in the other party [Obama’s Democrats] who might disagree with Paul Ryan, but I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t respect his character and judgment.”
For his part, Ryan criticised the short-termism of the incumbent administration saying: “President Obama and too many like him in Washington have refused to make difficult decisions because they are more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation.”
Ryan’s selection draws attention to a plan he proposed as House budget chairman that would include controversial cuts in US government health programmes for the elderly and poor.
Democrats are eager to focus on that issue – particularly in Florida, where many senior citizens live and which could be a crucial state in the November election.
The Florida leg of Romney’s bus tour, which started yesterday, will be an instant test for the new ticket, taking in four politically divided states that Romney needs to win in November: Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.
Republicans will hope Ryan’s appointment boosts Romney’s credentials with conservatives.
Polls during the winter and spring primaries found that Romney was regarded as suspect on that front by the party’s core, Tea Party supporters.
With his choice, Romney is seeking to revive his campaign and repair an image damaged by negative advertising from the Democrats.
Observers of the US political scene regarded the move as an astute one aimed at shifting the trajectory of a campaign that has seen Romney losing ground to Obama.
It is hoped that putting Ryan on the ticket could also help Romney become more competitive in Wisconsin, a state Obama won four years ago but which could be more difficult for him to retain come November.
After the campaign app announcement, the two men made their first joint appearance at a naval museum in Norfolk, Virginia, whose centrepiece is the battleship USS Wisconsin.
In a written statement issued a short while later, Romney’s campaign said Ryan had worked in Congress to “eliminate the federal deficit, reform the tax code and preserve entitlements for future generations.”
At 42, Ryan is a generation younger than 65-year-old Romney. A seventh-term congressman, Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee, and primary author of conservative tax and spending blueprints that the Tea Party-infused Republican majority approved over vociferous Democrat opposition in 2011 and again in 2012.
It envisions transforming Medicare – the national health insurance programme for Americans aged 65 and older – into a programme whereby seniors would receive government checks that they could use to buy health insurance. Under the current programme, the government directly pays doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers.
Ryan and other supporters say the change is needed to prevent financial calamity. Critics argue it would impose ever-increasing costs on senior citizens.
Other elements of the budget plan would cut projected spending for Medicaid, the government scheme that provides healthcare for the poor, as well as food stamps, student loans and other social programmes that Democrats have pledged to defend.
In all, the plan projected spending cuts of $5.3 trillion (£3.4tn) over a decade, and cut future projected deficits substantially. It also envisions a far reaching overhaul of the tax code of the sort Romney has promised.
Despite the age difference, Romney and Ryan appeared unusually comfortable with each other when they campaigned together earlier in the year. They shared the microphone and later ate hamburgers at a fast-food restaurant.
In making an endorsement before his state’s primary last spring, Ryan said: “I picked who I think is going to be the next president of the United States – I picked Mitt Romney. The moment is here. The country can be saved. It is not too late to get America back on the right track. It is not too late to save the American idea.”
Conservative pundits have been urging Romney to choose Ryan in part because of his authorship of the House-backed budget plan that seeks to curb overall spending on the benefits programmes.
Ryan has worked in Washington for much of his adult life, a contrast to Romney, who frequently emphasises his
experience in business.
Romney’s staff learned of the planned announcement in a conference call last Friday about an hour before the campaign statement.
Profile: A career politician
Paul Ryan is a shining example of a consummate career politician. The 42-year-old has spent almost half of his life in the Washington fold, the past 14 representing Wisconsin.
He grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, and still lives near his childhood home. His father died when he was a teenager, which encouraged him to devote himself to physical fitness.
His political career has been marked by similar dedication.
He was first exposed to Congress as a summer intern to Senator 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 networked with his formidable Washington connections and his local ties forged through the family construction business to secure the seat.
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.
He is a disciple of and past aide to the late Republican Jack Kemp, once a Republican vice presidential nominee himself, who promoted tax cuts as a central tenet for economic growth.
In today’s Republican party he is regarded as a bridge between the buttoned-up Republican establishment and the riled-up tea party movement.
He and wife Janna, a tax lawyer, have a daughter and two sons.
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