Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a federal budget expert and fiscal conservative, is Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate, the Romney campaign announced Saturday morning.
Mr. Romney made the announcement aboard the USS Wisconsin later in the day, and the campaign has dubbed the ticket "America's comeback team."
Mr. Ryan, is slated for formal nomination by delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., at the end of this month.
Mr. Ryan, 42, is the House Budget Committee chairman and a favorite among many in his party, especially economic conservatives because he has made budgetary reform and spending restraint the hallmark of his political career in Washington.
He proposed a budget plan that won wide acclaim among conservatives.
Not noted for riveting speeches, he will not compete for attention with Mr. Romney but would lend credibility to Mr. Romney's promises of fiscal restraint in the presidency.
The Ryan pick is expected to assuage fears among his party's conservative wing that he would repeat the expansion of government and the excessive spending of the last two Republican presidents.
A pro-life Catholic, Mr. Ryan as much as any Republican in office is trusted on fiscal as well as social matters.
"I can tell from our survey of our members that Ryan, along with [Florida Sen. Marco] Rubio, was one of the top picks for vice president," said Ralph King, state coordinator of the Ohio Tea Party Patriots, which has more than 100 tea party chapters statewide.
"I guess the grass roots will be more energized than if they had picked [Ohio Sen. Rob] Portman or some of the others they talked about," Mr. King said.
Though they like him generally, some conservative activists think Mr. Ryan's budget proposal didn't go far enough fast enough.
"I appreciate Ryan's strong stand against Obamacare and how he did stand up to the president," said Jason W. Hoyt, an activist with the Central Florida Tea Party. "But I'm very disappointed with the Ryan budget plan because it would not balance the budget 'til the year 2040. So, yes, in that sense, Ryan is not as conservative as I wish he was."
Liberals, meanwhile, plan to use that budget against the ticket, saying it would hurt seniors on Medicare and make other deep cuts to the social safety net.
"Paul Ryan is a right-wing extremist who wants to end Medicare," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. "This is a major unforced error by Mitt Romney. It gives President Obama and Democrats a chance to draw a clear contrast in 2012 by promising not to cut one penny from Medicare or Social Security benefits."
Some Democrats focused on the dearth of foreign policy experience of the now-complete GOP ticket — and the Romney-Ryan budgetary proclivities.
"By selecting Paul Ryan as a running mate, Mitt Romney made a bolder move than many would have predicted. The upsides are clear: Ryan is young, charismatic and can charm the base," said Jennifer L. Lawless, director of the American University's Women and Politics Institute.
"But the downsides are pretty obvious, too: Ryan lacks foreign policy experience, has proposed and stood by a budget and entitlement reform that would likely leave even more vulnerable older citizens, as well as those who are already struggling to make ends meet, and has been a leader in a Congress whose first priority is to stifle President Obama, not move the country forward with bipartisan compromise," she said.
"Paul Ryan does nothing to appeal to disenchanted Obama supporters, little to bring independents to the Republican side, and will not help at all as far as closing the gender gap is concerned," she said.
Like Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan is a devoted family man, which will sit well with social and religious conservatives in the GOP electoral coalition, a GOP campaign consultant said.
Mr. Romney chose to make the Ryan announcement in Virginia, one of the three must-win swing states for the former Massachusetts governor if he is to succeed in replacing President Obama to the White House.
Virgina is "slipping away from us," a GOP campaign consultant said privately. "This was the right place to make the announcement."
Just how important the vice presidential pick is to winning an election is historically questionable.
One of the rare examples of impact was when Texas Democratic Sen. Lyndon Johnson helped Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy with the Southern vote in the 1960 presidential election.
"Romney's choice of Paul Ryan tells us a lot about his confidence. People vote for the top of the ticket in presidential contests. It's important not to do any harm with a VP pick. Romney hasn't hurt his chances, and Paul Ryan may have helped at the margins," noted Karlyn Bowman, American Enterprise Institute public opinion expert.
Heritage Foundation resident scholar and former Oklahoma Rep. Ernest Istook said that while "some will equate Ryan with picking Sarah Palin as an example of boldness, appealing to the base, telegenics and so on, Ryan brings a greater level of depth, knowledge and even political craftiness than Palin."
"As budget chairman, he has been exposed to plenty of tricks and games and knows how to deal with them," Mr. Istook said.
Evangelicals greeted the Ryan announcement with enthusiasm.
Rich Bott, national Religious Broadcasters Board chairman, called Mr. Ryan a "great" choice because he knows "our rights come from God, not government."
The overall reaction on the GOP side was that the Ryan choice turned the Republican ticket into a "dream team," because of Mr. Romney;s successful business experience combined now with Mr. Ryan's savvy economic and legislative experience.
But former Iowa GOP chairman Kayne Robinson warned that even though Mr. Ryan will further strengthen the image of the GOP ticket as that economic dream team, "If Romney and Ryan are aggressive and take the initiative, they can win, but if they explain their economic solutions in extreme detail down in the weeds, they will be stuck in Obama diversion canal, and people will zone out."
The announcement especially pleased partisans who think only a "big issues" approach will get Republicans back into the White House.
"This signals Romney's intention to make this race a clear choice between alternate visions of the nation's future," said National Rifle Association President David A. Keene, a longtime friend and fellow Wisconsinite. "The Ryan choice means, whether he likes it or not, President Obama is faced with a challenger who intends to make this contest about big rather than little tactical issues. That should be good for Romney and, most importantly, good for the country."
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Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
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