The race to define Paul Ryan
August 12th, 2012
04:41 PM ET
2 years ago

The race to define Paul Ryan

High Point, North Carolina (CNN) - Ask Sarah Palin. It happens every campaign cycle. And now, the race to define Rep. Paul Ryan has begun.

At two separate events in North Carolina Sunday, Mitt Romney sought to portray his new running mate as a reluctant budget warrior who went to Washington to change the status quo.

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"His career ambition was not to go to Washington. That is not what he wanted to do," Romney said about Ryan at a rally in Mooresville.

"He went there to change minds," the presumptive GOP nominee added about his running mate in High Point.

Ryan's biography diverges from the narrative that Romney offered. After graduating from college in 1992, Ryan went to work in Washington as a Congressional aide and staff member for a conservative political group. He lived and worked in the nation's capital until 1997, when he returned to Wisconsin to run for Congress. He's represented Wisconsin in the House since 1998.

Romney's comments appeared designed to neutralize criticism from Democrats that Ryan, who was elected to Congress at age 28, is a deeply partisan creature of Washington.

To match an image with its message, the campaign agreed Sunday to a People Magazine photo shoot outside one North Carolina event, according to a pool report. The shoot featured Romney and his wife Ann standing alongside Ryan's wife and young children. On Saturday, a Romney aide tweeted out pictures of the 42-year-old vice presidential candidate's grade school-age children of playing on the campaign bus.

A senior Romney adviser brushed off the coming attacks coming from Democrats.

"They're going to do whatever they can to dirty him up," Romney's strategist Eric Fehrnstrom said before the High Point rally.

The Obama campaign's Ryan offensive shifted into overdrive during the Sunday morning talk shows.

"I think that [Obama] thinks that he is a perfectly genial and bright guy," Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod said on CNN's State of the Union.

"I mean, Congressman Ryan is a right-wing ideologue, and that is reflected in the positions that he's taken," Axelrod added.

The swift and pointed jabs at Ryan stood in stark contrast with the caution shown by Obama strategists in 2008 to a then-unknown Palin. John McCain's running mate would go on to define herself.

The Obama campaign and its liberal allies are moving with haste to fill in its selection of details this time around mainly because Ryan has a lengthy and sometimes controversial record. The Wisconsin congressman ascended to the role of chairman of the House Budget Committee due in large part to his willingness to confront the looming insolvency issues plaguing Medicare and Social Security.

Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" proposes a partially privatized Medicare program for future seniors. Instead of automatic enrollment in the government health care program for seniors, Ryan would give older Americans the option of buying into Medicare approved plans with "premium support" payments or vouchers, as Democrats have described them.

"Where's their plan?" Fehrnstrom asked in reference to the Obama campaign's proposals to bring down the deficit. The Romney campaign has also answered the barrage by accusing the president of seeking to gut Medicare to pay for his health care plan, a charge Democrats vehemently deny.

Liberal activists have insisted Ryan's fiscal hawkishness stems from a fascination with the Russian-American novelist, Ayn Rand.

The controversial 20th century author - who wrote "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" - was a fierce critic of Social Security and other safety net programs.

"It is precisely these trends which are bringing the world to disaster because we are now moving towards complete collectivism or socialism," Rand told CBS's Mike Wallace in a decades old interview that remains popular among fans of the author.

Ryan once recorded a campaign video touting Rand as someone who "more than anyone else has done a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism."

Speaking about the Obama administration, Ryan added in the video: "And I think a lot of people would observe we are right now living in an Ayn Rand novel, metaphorically speaking."

Last summer Ryan told CNN's Gloria Borger that any talk of an obsession with Rand was a "canard."

"You know I read her novels when I was young, I thought they were good, they were good at defending free markets and free enterprise. Her philosophy is kind of a ridiculous one in my opinion, objectivism. I'm a devout Catholic, how can you believe in that stuff? But I think her novels are thought-provoking."

Fehrnstrom dismissed the discussion about Ryan's views on Rand as a youthful interest in a provocative philosopher.

"Every young conservative has a fascination with Ayn Rand at some point," Fehrnstrom said.

Less known about Ryan's record is that he once opposed the trade embargo on Cuba, a position that may surprise leaders in the traditionally Republican exile community in Miami.

As the Miami Herald reported Sunday, the Wisconsin congressman was an upfront critic of the embargo up until late 2008 when he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "If we're going to have free trade with China, why not Cuba?"

Ryan has since changed his position, a reversal that appears to satisfy Cuban American congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-FL.

"He was a free-trader and we explained to him the human-rights and terrorist record of the Cuban dictatorship," Diaz-Balart told the Miami Herald. "His record ever since is one of a strong supporter for freedom in Cuba. He is a strong ally."

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Filed under: 2012 VP Pick • Paul Ryan • Sarah Palin
soundoff (552 Responses)
  1. David glenn

    Rep. Ryan on saturday proved he wants jim crow economics when he wanted to cut head-start, and college aid... Said further that I believe in equal opportunity but not equal outcome (quote). D. Glenn

    August 13, 2012 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  2. mj

    With Medicare going broke in 12 years, just what is Obama's plan? There has to be tough choices made to get our great Country back on track. There are over 100 MILLION on some sort of Government Assistance in our Country. Where do you think the money comes from? Romney is not going to put Ryan's Budget in place. They are working together to put people back to work and not pay they not to, save Medicare, save our Military, and encourage Small Business to suceed – not make them feel quilty for working hard and paying their own bills.

    August 13, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  3. Voiceinthewind

    Just what America does not need another corporate puppet. End Corporation Government in America and vote Democratic.

    August 13, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  4. Mike

    I dunno – I was all for a lot of this and then he starts talking about messing with mortgage interest deductions going away which is ONE little feather in the cap of the working class homeowner. And, big tax cuts for business and the well-off. Not gonna fly. Noone is gonna go for this.

    August 13, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  5. Marita

    George, exactly and the people who put us where we are are the ones that sent jobs overseas, the ones who gave companies tax incentives to go open their factories in China and who since Reagan had been systematically moving companies and jobs to other countries where labor is cheaper. That is due to "GREED", the rich just want more and more, there is no end to what they want and do not care about the poor, the elderly or the middle class. That is what the Republican party is, just for the RICH and they are the ones who have put us in the debacle we are in today. The PARTY OF NO OR GOP have blocked every single legislation the President has put forth in order to get us out of the stagnation we are in, without any regard to anyone but their own hate of the President. Since day one M. McConnell a REPUBLICAN RADICAL LIKE Ryan said "they would not rest until they made this president a one term president." Without any care to the damage they were doing to the country they have obstructed every single attempt by the Democrats to improve the economy. We have already had almost 12 years of cuts in taxes for the rich, has it trickled donw? NO, it has not, because instead of creating jobs, what companies are doing is exploiting and overloading the employees they have not and if you complain they tell you where the door is. So why would we want more FAILED GOP Policies to go into effect with the likes of a JOB AND COMPANY DESTROYER such as Romney.

    August 13, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  6. eric7jdce56

    R Money & Ryan will kill Social Security & Medicare.

    August 13, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  7. David

    Let's stop this nonsense from these so-called republicans. If you are not in the top 1% income bracket of the USA – there is no way you should even entertain the idea of voting Republican. It's as simple as that.

    The entire party is based on giving to the rich at the expense of everyone else. I mean, this tax cuts for the rich nonsense has got to stop. It's so insane and based on such flawed logic, I cant hear it anymore.

    August 13, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  8. El Flaco

    The Republicans are offering us another neo-Con Administration. Romney aspires to be George Bush III. Ryan is just another Republican Washington insider.

    August 13, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  9. JDinHouston

    Paul Ryan cashed in on Social Security benefits, but he wants to take away those same Social Security benefits from the rest of us. Romney/Ryan, keep your hands OFF my retirement! I'm protecting myself and my parents, I'm voting Obama, not for Romneyhood and the Granny Killer..

    August 13, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  10. DWood717

    Paul Ryan Defined: Another POS career politican who works for big business and not American's!! Looks like we are stuck with Obama for another four years as Romney and Ryan cannot beat him!! The more the middle class learns about Ryan the worse it is going to be for Romeny and Ryan!

    August 13, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  11. stormrider2112

    I guess the Romney campaign doesn't care about Florida and Arizona. Arizona might very well become a battleground state with "secure the border!" and "don't take my Medicare and Social Security!"

    August 13, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  12. ll

    Not really. Ryan has already defined himself.

    And now Romney has defined his presidency -Far right tea party representing the 1% only.

    Who is left out in the cold under a Romney/Ryan presidency? Seniors, the middle class, women, gays, minorities, vet/military, the poor, children of adult seniors, etc.

    The GOP is no longer a party of and for the American people.

    August 13, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  13. Neil

    Paul Ryan VOTED YES for the Bailouts! Enough said.

    August 13, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  14. ubdumb

    Only in the liberal mind is living or spending within your means a radical idea.

    August 13, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  15. Q

    We can't see his taxes either. Nice

    August 13, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  16. Val

    I am a moderate independent and I must say ROMENY/PAUL have my vote in Novemeber! How ridiculous for those of you ignorant fools that believe in al;l of Obama's lies – unlike many of you – I learn from my mistakes – look at what he gave us. For argument sakes – YES he inherited a bad economy however he did NOTHING to make it better – his increase in spending – in budget expansions – with such a socialist agenda he made HISTORY'S SLOWEST RECOVERY-EVER!!!!!! On top of that don't believe "throw grandma off the cliff" jargon either – OBAMA CUT 500 BILLION FROM MEDICARE !!!!!! The one thing he didn't lie about was that he would bring change – horrible – slow – weak change!!!!!! ughhhhhh

    August 13, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  17. Lame CNN

    rather than just repeating what the two sides are saying, why don't you embarq on some actual journalism and report what the actual factual truth on the guy is.

    August 13, 2012 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  18. Dave

    "Only in the liberal mind is living or spending within your means a radical idea."

    Unless you are a Republican, in which case deficit spending comes as naturally to you as rank hypocrisy.

    August 13, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  19. mikey

    Obama is running a in the gutter smear campaign. The net worth of americans is down 35%, the price of gas has doubled, Obmacare will bring over 2 dozen new taxes on every aspect of life, the federal debt has doubled, in part so Obama could pay off donors and friends. Mr President, run on YOUR Record.

    August 13, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  20. David

    Very curious. Obama was a member of the New Party, a socialist political party in Illinois. In 2007, Obama was considered one of the most liberal senators based on his voting record. Yet he is considered a moderate or centrist by Pravda, I mean the mainstream media. There's no real news in the news.

    August 13, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  21. 1olddude

    Let the games begin!!

    August 13, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  22. Name GW

    I hope he not a criminal like mitt

    August 13, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  23. wade

    Dems in the Senate have not presented a budget in over three years. The President has failed to get a budget in over three years. Ryan presented a responsible budget expecting others to do the same then negotiate the difference but the DEMS did nothing at all. So weather he is perfect or not he is 100 times better then the do nothing block everything democrats who have all but ruined this country in their on going war against America and their campaign of buying votes.

    August 13, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  24. Nate

    Say what you want, but Romney did a fantastic job with his selection. A lot better than Obama did. Biden should be shackled and kept in lock down. He can't keep his mouth closed. This is also better than going for a hail mary pick like Palin was. I am glad he didn't try to counter Obama's race factor (Cmon you all know it plays a part) by choosing one of the questionable and inexperienced minority candidates I heard being tossed around too. I am very happy with this and based on the word on the street I think the turn out for the election will be much better now for the Republicans. Now we have an election.

    August 13, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  25. Millie

    Maybe Palin's vision of "death panels" will come true now–only this time, at the hands of the Republicans. Try not to get sick or old, folks.

    August 13, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
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