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Romney Picks Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as Running Mate

Saturday, 11 August 2012 09:06 By Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times News Service | Report
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Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, shakes hands with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) at a campaign event at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, March 30, 2012. (Photo: Eric Thayer / The New York Times) Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, shakes hands with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) at a campaign event at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, March 30, 2012. (Photo: Eric Thayer / The New York Times) Washington - Mitt Romney has chosen Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin to be his running mate and will introduce him on Saturday morning in Norfolk, Va., the campaign said, a selection that shakes up the presidential race and presents a Republican ticket that offers a clear choice for voters in November.

Mr. Romney is set to announce his selection after touring the battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin around 9 a.m., ending a four-month search for a running mate. The announcement opens a four-day tour through four critical battleground states, with Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan poised to travel together to kick off the debut of their new partnership.

“Mitt’s choice for VP is Paul Ryan,” an announcement on the campaign’s mobile phone application said Saturday morning a few minutes after 7 a.m. “Spread the word about America’s Comeback Team #RomneyRyan2012.”

The selection of Mr. Ryan, 42, was kept secret until late Friday night when the campaign said that Mr. Romney would use the bus tour to disclose his vice-presidential candidate. Mr. Ryan was en route to Virginia.

Mr. Romney telephoned other finalists for the position on Friday evening, aides said, and thanked them for their cooperation in the vetting process and their help with his campaign effort. But he did not tell them whom he had decided upon.

Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, was set to campaign for Mr. Romney in New Hampshire on Saturday. A Republican close to Mr. Pawlenty said that he had been informed that he had not been chosen by Mr. Romney; Mr. Pawlenty would continue with his schedule and not be in Virginia for the vice-presidential announcement, the Republican said.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who had also been vetted and considered a top prospect, received a call from Mr. Romney on Friday night informing him that he had not been selected, a Republican official confirmed. Mr. Portman is scheduled to attend a cancer research bike ride in Ohio on Saturday and was not asked to travel to Virginia for the announcement.

The selection was announced as Mr. Romney moves into a critical period leading to his nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. He had planned to disclose the decision through the new mobile phone application, “Mitt’s VP,” a technique to help broaden the campaign’s base of supporters, but it was already widely reported earlier on Saturday morning.

In choosing Mr. Ryan, Mr. Romney was looking for a running mate to help shake up the race in the final three months. Mr. Ryan is seen as a rising star in the Republican Party and a favorite among conservative activists who view him as deeply committed to their fiscal principles.

But Mr. Ryan, a member of Congress since 1999, is also a lightning rod for Democrats who view him as the epitome of the Republican vision of deep cuts in social spending and entitlement programs. Unlike Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan has spent nearly his entire career in Washington either in or around the federal government.

As chairman of the House Budget Committee, he pushed his colleagues to boldly stake out an uncompromising position on the nation’s fiscal burdens.

The Ryan alternative to the Obama administration’s budget — once seen by many Republicans as too politically fraught, with its blunt talk of overhauling Medicare and Social Security — has become the core of the party’s fiscal plan. He was a central pillar in winning a Congressional majority in 2010 and persuaded his party to embrace a “Roadmap for America’s Future,” and promoted himself as one of the party’s leaders who called themselves the Young Guns.

Now, Mr. Ryan’s budget becomes the centerpiece of the debate in the presidential campaign, with Democrats eager to pounce on a program, which is politically risky. Even for Republicans, the dangers were underscored by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich last year, who called the plan “right-wing social engineering,” but was quickly scolded by conservatives.

Picking Mr. Ryan would indicate that Mr. Romney wants to double-down on his basic message, making his case for a conservative overhaul of the nation’s economy.

Mr. Romney, who seemed to audition many of his potential running mates in highly public fashion on the campaign trail, had an easy and instant rapport with Mr. Ryan. In Wisconsin, Mr. Ryan spent several days with Mr. Romney, taking him to Culver’s for butter burgers and chocolate malts, and the two passed out sandwiches at Cousins Subs on the day of the state’s primary.

Sometimes, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan seemed to resemble a duo from a buddy movie rather than two politicians kissing babies and working rope lines. On April Fools’ Day, Mr. Ryan conspired with Mr. Romney’s staff to orchestrate an elaborate prank at a pancake breakfast, and the two laughed and bantered so frequently that Mr. Romney joked about having to deny that Mr. Ryan was one of his five sons.

Democratic groups have been preparing for Mr. Romney’s choice of a vice-presidential running mate, too, and are eager to revive the criticism about Mr. Ryan’s budget. The president and Mr. Ryan have clashed in the past. In a major economic speech in Washington last year, Mr. Obama assailed Mr. Ryan’s budget even as Mr. Ryan sat in the audience and watched.

“These are the kind of cuts that tells us we can’t afford the America that I believe in,” Mr. Obama said last April. “I believe it paints a vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic.”

Mr. Obama spared little about the budget that Republicans have embraced several times.

“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” the president continued, as Mr. Ryan sat stone faced. “There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.”

The announcement of Mr. Ryan as the vice-presidential pick came after a week of pressure from conservative publications and activists who urged Mr. Romney to Mr. Ryan.

An editorial in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday said Mr. Ryan “best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election.” A similar column in The Weekly Standard said that there would be little downside to picking the young, energetic Mr. Ryan.

“Romney, and Republicans, will be running on the Romney-Ryan plan no matter what,” The Weekly Standard wrote.

Picking Mr. Ryan suggests that Mr. Romney is prepared for an extended debate with the president during the fall campaign, with Mr. Ryan at his side.

This article, "Romney Picks Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as Running Mate," originally appears at the New York Times News Service.

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Jeff Zeleny

Jeff Zeleny is a political correspondent for The New York Times

Prior to joining The New York Times in September 2006, he was a national political correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.

Mr. Zeleny joined the Chicago Tribune in 2000 as a reporter on the Metropolitan desk in Chicago, where he was a member of the reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize in explanatory journalism for documenting gridlock in the nation's air traffic system.


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