Obama, Ryan take longtime rift to the next level

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Mr. Romney, campaigning in Florida, also fought back against Democratic charges that the choice of Mr. Ryan is proof Republicans intend to “gut” Medicare.

“The president’s idea for Medicare was to cut it by $700 billion. That’s not the right answer. We want to make sure that we preserve and protect Medicare,” the candidate said.

In Iowa, Mr. Ryan was forced to shout over several hecklers, some of whom were ushered out by police. But Mr. Romney’s newly announced running mate took it in stride.

“I’m from Wisconsin. We’re used to this,” he said in an apparent reference to the state’s deep divisions over union organizing that took center stage over the past year.

Promising faster economic growth and a better standard of living for all Americans, Mr. Ryan warned against staying on the Obama path, which he said would turn the U.S. into a debt-riddled European-style welfare state.

“We want America to be that land of the free, that society with a safety net, that society with people reaching their potential, a society of people making the most of their lives,” he said. “We don’t want to follow Europe. We don’t want a welfare state. We don’t want a debt crisis. We don’t want to prolong this recession. … We want to turn this thing around.”

Mr. Obama and other Democrats argue that Mr. Ryan’s plan for fixing the country’s finances by making deep cuts to entitlement programs would weaken the social safety net and hurt the middle class, the poor and seniors the most.

Last year, liberal activists produced a campaign video equating Mr. Ryan’s budget plan to pushing an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff. Earlier this year, Mr. Obama described Mr. Ryan’s budget plan as a “Trojan horse” for “social Darwinism.”

The president even has blamed Mr. Ryan for single-handedly pushing Republicans to the right on entitlement cuts.

The Ryan budget, he said at an Associated Press luncheon in April, “is now the party’s governing platform.”

“This is what they’re running on,” Mr. Obama said.

Even though Mr. Obama has said he personally likes Mr. Ryan and respects him as a “family man” — a comment Mr. Obama repeated on the campaign trail Monday — their relationship took a turn for the worse when the president invited Mr. Ryan to a speech on the deficit in April 2011 at George Washington University and famously ridiculed his budget while the lawmaker from Wisconsin sat in the audience.

“This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social contract in America,” Mr. Obama said at the time.

“Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said there’s nothing ‘serious’ or ‘courageous’ about this plan,” he said. “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending $1 trillion on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.”

Just two days later, Mr. Obama was caught on a live microphone at a Chicago fundraiser basically calling Mr. Ryan a phony when it comes to balancing the country’s books.

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