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Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan: Romney’s pick for VP

By BRYAN BAKST
August 11, 2012

GOP Rep. Paul Ryan: Romney’s choice (AP)

Even before Wisconsin sent Paul Ryan to Congress, he was meticulously carving a path that seemed to point only upward.

As a young Capitol Hill staffer, he impressed Republican lawmakers with his hustle and intellectual curiosity. He blended quickly with an elite crop of conservative thinkers. By his 30s, he was a congressman on his way to becoming a GOP name brand with his push-the-edge budget proposals.

Ryan’s climb reached new heights Saturday when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced him as his running mate.

“Mitt’s Choice for VP is Paul Ryan,” said a phone app Romney’s team created to spread the word to supporters.

As the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan gives Romney a link to Capitol Hill leadership and underscores Romney’s effort to make the election a referendum on the nation’s economic course. Romney also could see his standing improve in Wisconsin, a state President Barack Obama won handily four years ago but that could be much tighter this November.

Even so, Ryan has been a double-edged sword for Romney. The congressman’s endorsement of Romney came at a critical stage of the GOP primaries, giving him a boost in the Wisconsin race that effectively buried Romney’s final threat. But it also meant Romney was embracing the Ryan-sponsored budget proposal that Democrats fiercely target as painful to the poor and elderly.

Still, the square-jawed congressman is viewed as a bridge between the buttoned-up GOP establishment and the riled-up tea party movement.

At 42, Ryan has spent almost half of his life in the Washington fold, the last 14 representing a southern Wisconsin district that runs from the shores of Lake Michigan through farm country south of Madison.

Ryan grew up in Janesville and still lives just down the block from where he spent his boyhood. During summers in college, Ryan was a salesman for Oscar Mayer and once drove the company’s famed Wienermobile.
Ryan’s father, a lawyer, died of a heart attack when Ryan was a teenager. It’s why Ryan is a fitness buff, leading fellow lawmakers through grueling, early-morning workouts and pushing himself through mountain climbs.

That same intensity propelled him on the political front, too.

He was first exposed to Congress as a summer intern to former Sen. Robert Kasten, R-Wis.

With an economics degree in hand, Ryan worked his way through committee staff assignments, a prominent think tank and top legislative advisory roles until opportunity arose with an open seat from his home turf. He leveraged Washington connections, local ties forged through the family construction business and the backing of anti-abortion groups en route to his surprisingly comfortable victory.

As a 28-year-old, Ryan entered Congress brimming with idealistic views about forcing government to become leaner and less intrusive, principles he thought even fellow Republicans were abandoning too readily.

“One of the first lessons I learned was, even if you come to Congress believing in limited government and fiscal prudence once you get here you are bombarded with pressure to violate your conscience and your commitment to help secure the people’s natural right to equal opportunity,” Ryan wrote in a 2010 book.

Critics question Ryan’s own consistency. They note that he backed a costly prescription drug benefit during Republican George W. Bush’s presidency that added strain to the Medicare budget, which Ryan touted at the time as “one of the most critical pieces of legislation” enacted since he joined Congress. He said in a June interview with The Associated Press that he took a “defensive” vote to ward off a more expensive Senate version. More recently,¬†Ryan served on a bipartisan presidential debt commission but balked at its report because a tax increase was on the menu of options.

He is a disciple of and past aide to the late Rep. Jack Kemp, once a GOP vice presidential nominee himself who effusively promoted tax cuts as a central tenet for economic growth.

From the title page of his idyllic “Path to Prosperity” budget plan down to the most scrutinized fine print, Ryan is adept at framing proposals in the most pleasant terms.
Ryan’s opponents charge that his call to open Medicare to more private competition is too risky even if implementation would be a ways off; he counters that the latest version was fashioned in consultation with prominent Democrats in hopes of heading off an all-out program collapse that would devastate the financial security of future retirees. Foes say his plans to scale back food stamps and housing assistance are mean-spirited; Ryan describes the moves, which would allow states to further customize their welfare programs while imposing tougher time limits and work requirements, as empowerment for the downtrodden who he argues are being lulled into lives of complacency and dependency.

It took time for Ryan’s own party to get fully behind his ideas. A few years ago, when Ryan first proposed dramatic changes to entitlement programs like Medicare some in the GOP were skittish because Democrats pounced on the plans as undermining the health program accessed by millions of retirees.

Kasten said Ryan’s refusal to back down paid off politically.

“If all the sudden you become the dartboard for everyone on the left and you are willing to stand there and take the heat and the darts, you develop a tremendous amount of respect even from those who are throwing the darts,” Kasten said. “In the beginning it’s a grudging respect. It grows into a true respect.”

Ryan has let opportunities to advance come and go, most recently when he opted not to seek an open U.S. Senate seat. His young family factored into his considerations; he and wife, tax attorney Janna, have a daughter and two sons, ages 10, 8 and 7.

Associated Press writers Steve Peoples and Matthew Daly in Washington and Kasie Hunt in Norfolk, Va., contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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3 Responses to Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan: Romney’s pick for VP

  1. Sandy Price

    August 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    I loved Ryan’s speech about being V.P. He turned on Obama for his lack of bill passing when it was Ryan and his band of spineless wimps who refused to even discuss changes. There was nobody as guilty as Ryan for watching a million jobs go by the wayside as it would be a feather in Obama’s cap.

    I’m tired of Republicans playing dumb when they vote only against Obama without a care in the world for failing the development of new jobs. Sadly the voters are too stupid to follow the dots that made Obama a failed leader.

    Where is the reaction to Ryan’s comments blaming Obama for not getting bills passed. Will there be words even from CHB to explain why Obama failed in his plans for jobs. Or do we sit on our hands and whine again and again?

    Somewhere down the line the whole concept of right over wrong is missing not only in the elections but even in the discussions of these campaigns.. It’s not just CHB but 50% of all the forums simply repeat what they here on MSNBC and/or Fox News.

    A new original thought is rejected so nothing gets done and the SOS Same Old Itshay get rewritten and rewritten over and over. Apparently American Values are a thing of the past. It is not enough to pray when we continue to get more wars on our doorstep. There must be one or two leaders who can throw out some words of wisdom.

    I’m offended by Ryan using Ayn Rand against the rest of the leaders. She would never approach American Values in the weak-assed way that the religious right does. Her values came from individual freedoms not this load of crap from Ryan.

  2. Nevada Ned

    August 11, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Another economics major who thinks that we can balance the budget by cutting taxes for the rich. Not a math major!

  3. Sandy Price

    August 11, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    As individuals we all have had to cut back on our spending and I discovered a great place to live as very little cost. I grew up on the beach in Santa Monica and found so many jobs available when I got out of school that I would make a list of the value of the benefits and the hourly incomes and take into consideration the cost of driving to and from work/home. I married well and we had a very good address in Encino and the majority of the gals I knew drove Caddies. Well the economy and price values went to hell at the time my husband traded me in for his secretary. I lived in a run-down cabin in the mountains and raised my two girls without any help from my ex. I worked and we did pretty well until my health took a hit from Arthritis.

    My kids live in a very exclusive area near Palm Springs and I found a lovely mobile home park with 3 pools and a golf course. The place is crawling with retired work forces from all over the state. The park is immaculate and the grounds as clean as any park I’ve ever seen.

    Property taxes are practically zero and the cross section of residents is to be used as a great example of how people can live in harmony. My rent is under $600 per month and there are many activities if one wants to socialize. I’m a reader and this place is a reader’s paradise. I am very close to the new Palm Desert YMCA aquatic center where we have water aerobics and arthritis therapy classes.

    I’ve had the big homes on acreage and I’ve had my share of convertibles and even boats. But I have a neighborhood where security is guaranteed and we all look after each other.

    I’ve cut back and found my own paradise.