- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A month into his vice presidential candidacy, it’s clear Rep. Paul Ryan has had an impact — elevating Medicare into the national debate, putting more of his fellow House Republicans on defense and now explaining his own math skills, after he dramatically oversold his marathon-running speed.

What is yet to be determined is whether the Wisconsin Republican’s impact helps or hurts the Romney ticket on Election Day.

During that month he and Mitt Romney, the man at the top of the GOP ticket, closed the gap in polls with President Obama, then fell behind again.

Republicans say he has been good for the ticket, boosting enthusiasm and giving them a reason to talk about big ideas, though they acknowledge they are having to answer tougher questions about the budgets Mr. Ryan wrote as House Budget Committee chairman.

But Democrats said he has been even better for them, giving them a firm target to fire at — particularly on Medicare, where his budgets proposed turning it into more of a defined spending plan rather than the defined benefit plan it is today.

“I think Ryan does something for [the Republican] base and doesn’t do anything else,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who served two years on the Budget Committee with Mr. Ryan earlier in his career. “I think he risks the senior vote. I think he puts into more serious play 29 electoral votes in Florida, which would be disastrous for the Romney ticket. I think he is the semi-affable radical that he is.”

Mr. Romney tapped Mr. Ryan to be his running mate Aug. 11, while Congress was in the middle of a monthlong summer vacation.

Now, as his colleagues stream back to town for a brief burst of legislative activity, he is a major topic for those on both sides.

“I see members very excited about Paul,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, California Republican. “I think Paul was a great choice. It’s not very often members know somebody personally, worked with them, and worked with their issues, and I also think it pushes a lot of the issues the House has been working on the last two years to the forefront as well.”

Even in the Senate, where collegiality reigns and the lower chamber is often ignored, Majority Leader Harry Reid led off Monday’s session by mocking Mr. Ryan for saying he ran a marathon in a little less than three hours — when the true time was more than four hours.

Mr. Ryan explained on CBS this weekend that the race was more than 20 years ago and he made an “honest mistake.”

But Mr. Reid dubbed it “Ryan math,” and said it exposed a deeper problem with the GOP ticket’s No. 2 man.

“His math doesn’t work for running a marathon or anything else,” the Nevada Democrat said. “The Ryan math doesn’t work with his budgets, it doesn’t work with Medicare, and it doesn’t work with his tax plan.”

Picking Mr. Ryan did seem to boost Mr. Romney initially. Polling showed the race tightened to a dead heat in the run-up to Republicans’ convention in Tampa, Fla.

Introducing himself to the nation with his address the middle day of the convention, Mr. Ryan had the line of the week when he joked about college students still living at home “staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”

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