Romney picks deficit hawk Ryan for the GOP ticket

Mitt Romney picked Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate on Saturday morning, surprising many, myself included, who thought he'd select long-time political ally Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

Mitt Romney picked Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate on Saturday morning, surprising many, myself included, who thought he'd pick long-time political ally Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

Ryan checks a number of boxes for Romney. He's a darling of conservatives because of his hard-line stances on cutting the federal budget - known as the “Ryan Plan” - and his reputation as a deficit hawk. Ryan's selection also makes battleground state Wisconsin, where incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker survived a hotly contested recall election earlier this year, more competitive. Romney has also elevated one of his party's young guns to a leadership role in the GOP, positioning him strongly for a run at the White House of his own in coming years.

However, the Ryan Plan will provide talking points for Democrats. Its provisions that would reform - Democrats would say “gut” or “eliminate” - Medicare and Medicaid proved controversial, to say the least. Romney did not exactly embrace it during the GOP primaries.

Ryan is also considered a government wonk, having worked in the public sector for most of his adult life. Some will argue this balances Romney's early emphasis on his private-sector experience, others will contend it negates the former Massachusetts governor's insistence that business experience is a qualifier for the White House.

Curiously, Romney revealed his VP pick during the Olympic Games, which many pundits felt he would not do because it would dull the announcement's impact. But with Romney trailing President Barack Obama by as much as seven points in polls released this week, the Romney camp likely felt it needed to make a bold, immediate choice to change the race's direction. Ryan has a chance to do that much more clearly than Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlentry would have.

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