Romney and Ryan's father and son act wows voters


Mitt Romney is more human and paternalistic now he has a running mate his son’s age

THE REPUBLICAN candidate Mitt Romney has appeared almost human since presenting congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate last Saturday.

Buoyed up by his paternalistic infatuation with Ryan, Romney beams when Ryan takes to the podium, and has adopted a new habit of thumbs-up signs and high-fives.

Crowds swelled to levels never before attained by Romney: 5,000 for their joint appearances in Virginia and North Carolina; 10,000 in Wisconsin.

At every campaign stop, Romney (65) repeats that Ryan’s father died when he was only 16, which “forced him to grow up earlier than any young man should”. Ryan (42) is the same age as Romney’s oldest son Tagg.

The Romney campaign calls the trans-generational pair “America’s comeback team”. At a rally in Waukesha, 60 miles from his home in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Sunday night, Ryan cried, said, “Hi Mom,” and delivered the kind of aw-shucks homage to his home state that Romney never quite manages to carry off.

“My veins run with cheese, bratwurst, and a little Spotted Cow, Leinie’s and some Miller,” Ryan said to cheers, referring to Wisconsin’s favourite foods and beers. “I was raised on the Packers, Badgers, Bucks and Brewers,” he said of the state’s sports teams.

Romney and Ryan parted to campaign separately yesterday but will be reunited at the Republican convention in Tampa two weeks from now. Romney dispatched Ryan to Iowa in the hope he’d steal some of the limelight from President Barack Obama’s three-day bus tour there, strengthening the impression that whatever brains, backbone and energy exist in the Romney campaign are concentrated in the vice-presidential hopeful. Obama called Ryan the “ideological leader” of Republicans at a fundraiser in Chicago on Sunday.

Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod said he remembered the “same kind of excitement” four years ago. “When John McCain appointed Sarah Palin, as well, there were huge crowds, much of the same kind of reaction, and I don’t think it worked out very well,” Axelrod told CBS News.

Calling Ryan a “certifiable right-wing ideologue”, he said his candidacy “thrilled the base of the party, the Tea Party Republicans and the social conservatives” but predicted that “when the reality catches up with the moment, it’s not going to be a plus for Governor Romney.”

Candidates who attack government “entitlements” in election years tend to lose voters, which is why Romney does not want to be too closely identified with Ryan’s austerity recipes.

“I have my budget plan, as you know, that I’ve put out,” Romney told CBS. “And that’s the budget plan that we’re going to run on.”

Except that, contrary to Ryan, Romney has not provided specifics about how he would cut government spending.

The Obama campaign yesterday ridiculed Romney’s attempts to distance himself from his running mate’s past proposals.

“It was laughable last night to hear Romney say, ‘well, that’s his plan, I’ve got my own plan’,” Axelrod said.

“For the middle class, it feels like a choice between a punch in the nose and a knee to the groin. The fact is both plans call for trillions and trillions of dollars of new tax cuts skewed to the wealthy.”

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for Obama, noted that Romney has called Ryan’s budget plan “marvellous”, adding that, “You typically don’t call something ‘marvellous’ unless you think it’s pretty great. We know he has spoken in support of it many, many times, so to try to walk away at this point from that plan seems a little tough for him to do.”

In western Iowa, afflicted by the country’s worst drought in 50 years, Obama called on Congress to pass the farm Bill that Ryan opposes. “Now I’m told Governor Romney’s new running mate might be around Iowa these next few days,” Obama said in Council Bluffs. “And he’s one of those leaders of Congress standing in the way. So if you happen to see congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm Bill is to Iowa and our rural communities. It’s time to put politics aside and pass it right away.”

As he crosses Iowa, Obama will also plead for an extension of tax credits for wind energy, which are opposed by Romney.

As chairman of the House budget committee, Ryan proposed turning Medicare, the government-run insurance for 50 million elderly citizens, into a voucher programme that would require seniors to pay costs beyond the value of the vouchers.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the plan would leave individuals out of pocket by an extra $6,400 annually.

Romney has portrayed the cap on Medicare benefits in the Ryan plan as a way of saving it.

“We want to make sure that we preserve and protect Medicare,” he told an audience in Florida yesterday. Romney accused Obama of wanting to cut $700 billion from Medicare, but did not mention the same cuts are included in the Ryan plan.