Ryan to be Romney nominee
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has named Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate today in a move that will bring the debate over how to reduce government spending and debt to the forefront of the race for the White House.
Mr Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, announced that he has tapped the House of Representatives Budget Committee chairman at an event in front of the retired battleship USS Wisconsin - coincidentally named for Ryan's home state.
"His leadership begins with character and values. ... Paul Ryan works in Washington but his roots remain in Janesville, Wisconsin," Mr Romney said before introducing Mr Ryan.
The announcement marks the end of a months-long search for a running mate to challenge Democratic president Barack Obama and vice president Joe Biden in the November 6 election, and will serve to energise conservatives who staged a big effort in recent days to persuade Mr Romney to pick Mr Ryan.
It comes as Mr Romney starts a bus tour through four battleground states he needs to win in November - Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.
Mr Romney's move is a bold one as he finds himself suddenly falling behind slightly in what has been a neck-and-neck race with Obama, according to recent polls, in a campaign that is based largely on the weak US economy.
The selection of Mr Ryan, 42, brings a measure of youthful exuberance and energy to the Republican ticket as party activists prepare to gather in Tampa late this month for the convention that will formally nominate Romney as the presidential nominee. Romney aides hope the vice presidential choice and the enthusiasm produced by the convention will give him a bounce in the polls.
Conservatives had been urging Mr Romney to pass over tried-and-true Republicans like Ohio Senator Rob Portman and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, two other big names on his short list, and instead go with Mr Ryan.
But many Republicans had wanted Mr Romney to play it safe and go with either the more experienced Mr Pawlenty or Mr Portman. A Republican source said Mr Portman got a call from Mr Romney saying he had not received the running mate nod, and other reports said Mr Pawlenty got a similar call.
Mr Ryan's selection immediately draws attention to a budget plan which Mr Ryan proposed as House budget chairman that would include unpopular 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 critical state in the November election.
Mr Romney's decision to pick Mr Ryan showed he is comfortable with having this debate over the future role of government and ways to rein in out-of-control spending and debt. He has endorsed parts of Mr Ryan's budget.
"Conservatives are going to be very energised because this is a demonstration that Romney was willing to make a bold pick," said Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak. "It may not be what he wanted to do three or six months ago, but I think this is as significant a choice as he could have made."
But Bill Burton, senior strategist at the pro-Obama group Priorities USA, suggested Mr Ryan could prove a liability.
"If it's really Ryan, Romney will have picked one of the only people who could have had an impact in the race. But not the way he wants," he said in a tweet.
The conservative Weekly Standard magazine reported that the Romney campaign had begun to prepare a vigorous effort to support Ryan as the vice presidential pick - "something now likely to happen soon".
Often likening Mr Ryan to Ronald Reagan, conservatives say the Wisconsin lawmaker's supposed drawbacks as a candidate - mostly stemming from the steep cuts he has proposed in social safety net programs - are actually strengths that could bring heft, content and perhaps a spark to Romney's campaign.
Mr Romney bonded with Mr Ryan during the Wisconsin Republican primary battle last spring when Mr Ryan campaigned enthusiastically for the former Massachusetts governor and they often appeared together.
For Mr Romney, an outsider to Washington, Mr Ryan would provide some expertise in dealing with Congress. But as a long-time member of the House, he lacks executive experience.
The challenge for Mr Romney will be to introduce Mr Ryan to the broader American electorate. While well known in Washington and among conservatives, most voters are not familiar with him.