TAMPA, Fla. — Capping his meteoric rise to the heights of the Republican Party, Paul Ryan accepted the party’s vice presidential nomination Wednesday, saying he considered it “a calling” at a time when the country needs to make tough decisions — and pledging that he and Mitt Romney won’t shirk from them.
Mr. Ryan’s speech capped off an evening that saw the Republicans try to ease Rep. Ron Paul off the political stage, and saw the party pay tribute to its living former presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
But Mr. Ryan’s address, which delivered budget-cutting marching orders to an eager and ever more rightward-leaning GOP, served as what he called a “clean break” from both President Obama and from the most recent Bush administration, when the Republicans deepened deficits and enacted a new entitlement program.
“You are entitled to the clearest possible choice,” Mr. Ryan told voters. “So here is our pledge. We will not duck the tough issues, we will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others, we will take responsibility. We will not try to replace our founding principles, we will reapply our founding principles.”
It was the biggest stage yet for the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman, who cut his teeth on deep policy debates but now becomes the Republican Party’s chief cheerleader for presidential nominee Mr. Romney, and its chief attack-dog in the battle against Mr. Obama.
On that score, he fired off a series of one-liners, including mocking Mr. Obama’s 2008 appeal to young voters.
“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” Mr. Ryan said.
He also pointedly said that November’s election marks a new beginning, not an end, to the Republican push to halt the health care law.
“The president has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over. That will come as news to the millions of Americans who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare,” Mr. Ryan said.
But his selection could also elevate the campaign conversation, pushing his plans for Medicare, Medicaid and spending cuts to the forefront of the debate and, at times, even pushing the day-to-day campaign insults and countercharges off the front pages.
Three years after the tea party became a major political force, Mr. Ryan brings the insurgent movement’s principles to the highest levels of Washington power as chairman of the House Budget Committee.
“Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation’s economic problems,” Mr. Ryan said. “And I’m going to level with you — we don’t have that much time. But if we are serious, and smart, and we lead, we can do this.”
While Mr. Ryan’s selection as his party’s No. 2 has energized the Republicans, Democrats are also salivating over the chance to run against his budget plans.
“If Romney and Ryan get their way, seniors’ Medicare would be replaced with a voucher that drops in value as health costs rise. Seniors will have to eat rising costs while millionaires like Mitt Romney get a tax cut,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Mr. Ryan’s Democratic counterpart on the Budget Committee, said in a fundraising email Wednesday.
In his speech Mr. Ryan pointed to his grandmother and mother, who he said have relied on Medicare, as a way of trying to deflect those charges.