Washington — The Republican Party’s presumed presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has picked Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be his vice presidential nominee. Having Ryan on the Republican ticket will focus much of the remaining U.S. presidential campaign on the competing economic visions between Romney and President Obama, as well as the debate between the two parties on the proper size and role of the federal government.
Ryan’s role as chairman of the House Budget Committee has made him the key figure behind Republican-proposed federal budgets aimed at reducing domestic federal spending. His ideas have delighted Americans who believe a reduced federal role in areas such as health care and other public entitlement programs will help to address the deepening U.S. budget deficit. But his proposals have angered others who believe that they will harm Americans who depend upon entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Many analysts see Romney’s choice as offering American voters a clearer choice on November 6 between Republican and Democratic economic philosophies as each party tries to make the case that they are offering the better plan to create jobs for Americans and improve the U.S. economy.
Introducing Ryan in Norfolk, Virginia, August 11, Romney said his running mate has energy and vision, and has become “an intellectual leader of the Republican Party” with an understanding of U.S. fiscal challenges, including the long-term danger posed by its debts.
Romney also praised Ryan’s personal integrity, which he said offers “a shining exception” to other U.S. politicians who resort to “pettiness and personal attacks” against their rivals.
“He doesn't demonize his opponents. He understands that honorable people can have honest differences, and he appeals to the better angels of our nature. There are a lot of people in the other party who might disagree with Paul Ryan. I don't know of anyone who doesn't respect his character and judgment,” Romney said.
Accepting the nomination, Ryan said he had been asked to “serve the country I love,” and paid tribute to his home town of Janesville, Wisconsin.
“For the last 14 years, I have proudly represented Wisconsin in Congress. There I have focused on solving the problems that confront our country, turning ideas into action and action into solutions. I am committed in heart and mind to putting that experience to work in a Romney administration,” Ryan said.
A FOUR-MONTH DECISION SHROUDED IN SECRECY
Many Americans were surprised at the pick because the Romney campaign managed to keep it a close secret, despite the high level of public interest. As soon as Romney appeared certain to win the Republican nomination in April, the media speculation over his vice-presidential pick, known as “the veepstakes,” began in earnest. A candidate’s choice of running mate is often seen as his first “presidential” act and a glimpse into his world view, since the vice president must be ready to assume the presidency in case of a president’s death or incapacitation. Romney’s choice is a statement that he feels Ryan is qualified to take over as president, as well as being a running mate who could attract voter support and improve Romney’s chances of being elected.
With reporters constantly tracking his movements, as well as those of other Republican vice presidential contenders, Ryan and Romney were able to keep the press in the dark about their meetings and common whereabouts through a combination of disguises, false destinations and other means. To arrive undetected at the Norfolk event, Romney’s campaign even had Ryan walk secretly through a forest near his home to meet a car that was waiting to take him to the airport.
For the past four months, Romney’s campaign staff has been vetting potential running mates, conducting preliminary interviews and exhaustive background checks to identify weaknesses that could hurt the campaign. In previous campaigns, factors such as a candidate’s home state, specific expertise and political experience have played key roles. Analysts speculated in 2008 that Barack Obama chose then-Senator Joe Biden as his running mate because of Biden’s long experience in foreign affairs.
The duties of the vice president have changed in recent years from being an office created by the U.S. Constitution mainly to ensure that an unplanned presidential succession would occur smoothly and to break tie votes in the U.S. Senate. The last three vice presidents have been able to turn the office into an independent power center. Biden currently serves as Obama’s chief counselor, while his predecessor, Dick Cheney, is famous for his influence over U.S. national security policies during the George W. Bush administration, and Al Gore made his mark in the Bill Clinton administration through his initiatives to "reinvent" the federal government.
On the campaign trail, the vice presidential candidate’s role can vary, but the two running mates may play a “good cop, bad cop” routine. That way, the vice presidential candidate can launch more controversial lines of attack against the opponent while the presidential nominee remains above the fray and avoids sounding negative.
The fact that Paul Ryan has been selected as a vice presidential candidate could also help to make him a potential presidential contender in his own right due to his increased visibility and de facto leadership in the Republican Party. If the Romney-Ryan ticket does not win on November 6, some Republican voters may begin to consider him as their choice in 2016.