Norfolk, Virginia (CNN) - The battleship was a tip-off in more ways than one.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan descended from the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia Saturday with the campaign equivalent of a call to arms. In the conservative movement, there is arguably no bigger gun than the GOP's presumptive vice presidential nominee.
- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.
The 42-year old Wisconsin congressman and House Budget Committee chairman, whose persona is equal parts fiscal hawk and Midwestern nice, delivered a message straight out of the Ryan gospel. The dramatic announcement not only won over the estimated 2,500 supporters at the event, but also roused leading conservatives who immediately applauded the choice on social media.
"We won't duck the tough issues. We will lead," Ryan said with the battleship looming over his shoulders. "We won't blame others. We will take responsibility," the Wisconsin congressman added in rhetorical cannon shots at President Obama.
In a sign Romney was steeling for a bold pick weeks ago, a senior campaign adviser tells CNN the GOP contender arrived at his decision on August 1st, the day after he returned from an overseas trip marked by a few headline-grabbing gaffes.
The campaign says Romney made the initial call to Ryan from the office of Beth Myers, the long-time aide who led the candidate's vice presidential search.
"He asked to meet with Ryan in person and they subsequently met and the offer was made," the adviser said speaking on condition of anonymity. A Romney campaign aide says Ryan accepted the offer four days later.
The timing of the decision indicated Romney was well-ahead of conservative pundits in Washington who were clamoring for a dynamic running mate. As a variety of national polls showed Romney trailing the president on Thursday, the groundswell for Ryan or some other "bold" pick had only grown louder.
The selection also came after weeks of attacks from the Obama campaign on Romney's business career at the private investment firm, Bain Capital.
Romney referenced the onslaught on his private sector experience in his remarks introducing Ryan. "And at a time when the President's campaign is taking American politics to new lows, we are going to do things differently," Romney said.
Romney went against his more data-driven and risk-averse instincts with his vice presidential pick. Ryan's blueprint to cut the deficit in Washington, which includes a plan to partially privatize Medicare, will undoubtedly turn off senior citizen voters in Florida.
But in the end, it appears a calculated risk was taken. Ryan's selection will galvanize conservatives in a campaign that may well come down to turnout on Election Day.
One top aide to the GOP contender described the pick as a window into a Romney administration. "This was an important decision about how the governor plans to govern as president," a Romney adviser told CNN.
"A vision for the country on the economy and spending, entitlement reform was an important consideration," the adviser added.
The timing and secrecy surrounding Romney's decision also demonstrated once again the campaign's ability to keep the national news media on its toes. After teasing this weekend's swing state bus tour as a potential vice presidential roll-out, the campaign emailed reporters late Friday night that the selection had been made before the motorcade had even begun.
For weeks, the campaign touted a smart phone application "Mitt's VP" as an instant messaging vehicle for the decision that would allow supporters to hear the news before the press. As it turned out, the app announced the news hours after various news outlets scrambled to find sources that could confirm Ryan had received the nod.
The day was not without its glitches. Due to the rushed set-up for the vice presidential announcement, a security sweep had not finished in time for the major networks, including CNN, to report live on-camera from the event site at 7am as many morning programs were going on the air.
Romney suffered a minor slip up of his own when he mistakenly called on the crowd to "join me in welcoming the next President of the US, Paul Ryan."
As Ryan took the podium, Romney returned to the stage to correct himself.
"Every now and then I'm known to make a mistake. I did not make a mistake with this guy, but I can tell you he's going to be the next VICE president of the US," Romney said.
Back in 2008, at the Democratic ticket's first joint appearance, then-candidate Barack Obama made the same mistake, referring to Joe Biden as "the next president." Biden went on to refer to the young Illinois Senator as "Barack America."
Noticeably absent from the vice presidential kick-off was any signage for the new Romney Ryan ticket, an indicator of just how closely guarded the candidate wanted to keep his pick a secret.