NORFOLK, Virginia — The man Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose for his running mate gives the GOP ticket solid conservative credentials in a congressman who is a generation younger than the presidential nominee.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is 42. Romney is 65.
A seven-term congressman, Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of a tax and spending blueprint that makes big cuts and rewrites Medicare into a voucher-like program.
Ryan and other supporters say the change is needed to prevent the program from financial calamity. Critics argue it would impose ever increasing costs on seniors.
One Republican, finance chairman Ron Weiser of Michigan, says Ryan’s selection would help Romney win Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes in the fall. The state typically supports democrats in presidential contests, and Obama won it handily four years ago.
“Mitt’s choice for VP is Paul Ryan. Spread the word about America’s comeback team,” a Romney campaign mobile phone application said.
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.
Conservative leaders, increasingly anxious over the state of Romney’s campaign, had urged him to pass over reliable — but not particularly inspiring — figures such as Ohio Senator Rob Portman and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, and instead go for Ryan.
The Wisconsin congressman is a favorite of the conservative Tea Party, an anti-tax, limited-government movement that helped Republicans take over the US House of Representatives in 2010. But Ryan’s selection immediately draws attention to a budget plan he proposed as House budget chairman that would include controversial cuts in government health programs for the elderly and poor.
Democrats are eager to pounce on that issue — particularly in Florida, where many seniors live and which could be a crucial state in the November election. Ryan’s selection makes the Florida leg of Romney’s bus tour an instant test for the new ticket.
Romney bonded with Ryan during the Wisconsin Republican primary battle last spring, when Ryan campaigned enthusiastically for the former Massachusetts governor. — Agencies