Ryan’s selection was a big gamble for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, given the House Budget Committee chairman’s authorship of a controversial budget that would overhaul the federal Medicare program — whose preservation is an issue on which Democrats have frequently bested Republicans.
“Our opponents can consider themselves on notice,” Ryan said. “In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the left isn’t going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program and raiding it. Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate.”
Ryan’s nomination will put more pressure on the Republican ticket to articulate and defend its economic vision, rather than simply stoking the electorate’s disappointment and dissatisfaction with Obama. Ryan, however, stuck to broad themes rather than gritty specifics in a speech that marked the first time many Americans have seen and heard the vice presidential nominee.
Again and again, delegates rose to their feet and cheered as Ryan warmed to the traditional running mate’s role as aggressor. Scott Walker, his home-state governor and longtime friend, wept.
“I have never seen opponents so silent about their record and so desperate to keep their power,” Ryan said. “They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.”
However, at several points, Ryan critiqued Obama’s positions without disclosing the fact that he had held similar ones. For instance, although he attacked Obama for reducing Medicare spending by more than $700 billion, his own budget proposal would curb the program by a similar amount. He also criticized the president for not supporting the recommendations of a bipartisan commission on deficit reduction, without noting that he had been a member of the commission and had not supported it either.
At 42, the congressman from Wisconsin is the first member of Generation X to run on a presidential ticket. He reflected his cohort’s anxiety that the Social Security and Medicare programs cannot be sustained long enough to take care of them in their retirement years.
“I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old — and I know that we are ready,” he told the delegates.
“I’m going to level with you,” he said. “We don’t have that much time. But if we are serious, and smart, and we lead, we can do this.”
When Ryan laid out his first major fiscal proposal three years ago, many in the upper ranks of the GOP were skittish about its particulars, especially the transformation of Medicare from a government-financed system to a voucher program.