Spotlight shifts to little-known Ryan


Paul Ryan takes his turn in the spotlight today for the biggest speech of his political career when he accepts the nomination as Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate at the Republican National Convention.

A question mark continues to hang over the convention as Hurricane Isaac slams into the US Gulf Coast. The storm missed Tampa but has cast something of a pall over the convention because delegates are loathe to seem overly joyful while Americans elsewhere suffer.

Heading the list of speakers today is Mr Ryan, a conservative budget hawk from Wisconsin.

Careful not to emulate predecessor Sarah Palin, who fell from grace quickly after bursting onto the 2008 campaign as John McCain's running mate, Mr Ryan has made a cautious start to the presidential race.

It is still unclear whether he will help Mr Romney draw support from undecided voters who may be the critical factor in the November 6th presidential election. Polls show a mixed picture.

"Tonight, the American people - millions who may not know a lot about Paul Ryan, other than the headlines that they've read  - are going to get to know Paul Ryan the way many of us know him: as a serious policy thinker," Republican Senator Marco Rubio told ABC's Good Morning America programme today.

Mr Rubio, who represents swing state Florida,  defended Mr Ryan's controversial budget plan to cut government spending deeply and overhaul the government-run Medicare health insurance programme for older Americans.

There has been no doubt, however, that Mr Ryan has energised conservatives in a way Mr Romney was unable to do during the long months of the Republican primary battle, when he faced a number of conservative challengers.

The boyish 42-year-old Mr Ryan, a fitness fanatic, has shown himself to be an affable asset to Mr Romney so far.

He has helped generate large crowds for Mr Romney when the pair has campaigned together, and some conservatives who were not that excited about the former governor of Massachusetts are now ready to work hard for him with Mr Ryan on the ticket.

Mr Ryan also helps put in play Wisconsin, a Midwestern state that has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984. A Romney victory in Wisconsin could alter the electoral map in a way that could hurt Democrat president Barack Obama's hopes for re-election.

Mr Ryan's place in prime time today offers him the chance to introduce himself to millions of Americans who are just starting to tune in to a presidential race that is too close to call with 70 days left until the voting.

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