On the stump, both candidates conspicuously have avoided talking about the specifics in Ryan’s budget, instead alluding to his bold ideas and casting the House Budget Committee chairman as a consensus-builder with solutions to the nation’s fiscal crisis.
“Instead of throwing brickbats and attacking and demonizing other people, he recognized that honest people can have honest differences,” Romney said Sunday at a rally in Mooresville, N.C.
Democrats are seizing on the Medicare proposal in particular to paint the Romney-Ryan ticket as dangerous. “Congressman Ryan is a right-wing ideologue, and that is reflected in the positions that he’s taken,” David Axelrod, a senior strategist for the Obama campaign, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“He is quite extreme — good, good person, you know, genial person — but his views are quite harsh,” Axelrod added.
In their first joint interview, on “60 Minutes,” Romney said he does not think Ryan’s Medicare plan would hurt the ticket’s chances. “What Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it’s there for current seniors,” Romney said on CBS News.
Romney has been defending his running mate from the moment he announced the ticket beside the battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk on Saturday. Although Ryan has spent the vast majority of his adult life in Washington, first as a congressional aide and later as a congressman, Romney is trying to convince voters that Ryan’s dreams were elsewhere.
“His career ambition was not to go to Washington,” Romney said Sunday in North Carolina. “That is not what he wanted to do. But he became concerned about what was happening in the country and wanted to get America back on track, and so he put aside the plans he had for his career and said, ‘I’m going to go and serve.’ ”
This fits the image the Romney team is trying to project of Ryan: a committed family man and a humble public servant, a rigorous thinker and a principled leader. At each campaign stop, Romney makes a point of telling voters that Ryan formed his character in high school when his father died.
On Monday, as Romney will stage two rallies and a business roundtable in Florida, Ryan will head to the Iowa State Fair.
“Iowa, in particular, that is a state where I think [Ryan’s] life story is important,” campaign adviser Kevin Madden said. “It’s something that I think helps him connect with a lot of those voters there.”
Romney’s campaign strategists think Ryan could help the ticket across the Midwest, particularly with blue-collar voters in the Great Lakes region and other industrial areas, although they said they plan to have him campaign in all the battleground states.
“I don’t know any place you wouldn’t take him,” said Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief strategist. “You could take him to the suburbs of Philly. You could take him to small-town Iowa. You could take him to Florida.”
The next few weeks will test whether Stevens is right. But Romney may not want to see his partner leave his side. While the pair addressed one crowd in North Carolina, Romney heaped praise on Ryan when supporters interrupted with chants of “Paul! Paul!”
“Yeah!” Romney cried out in response. “Paul! Paul! Paul! Paul! Paul! Paul! Let’s cheer for Paul!”