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. Osilama Abu

    Romney /Ryan-NO NO NO NO.

    Obama/Biden -Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

    August 12, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  2. PhilG

    Paul Ryan is a gut-er.

    He sees no need for social programs because his family is well provided for by the American taxpayer and Republican party already.

    His loyalty is solely to the super rich as is the loyalty of the rest of the Republican party top leadership.

    I welcome Paul Ryan telling millionas of American seniors how they must accept less every month so that the filthy rich can keep the money they made when they invited and employed the masses of Hispanic laborers they in effect brought into the country to replace more expensive Americans whjo were already here.

    And the so sad part of this is that a Hispanic man is good enough to tend a Republicans lawn,good enough to put up his drywall,good enough to build his car but apparently a Hispanic man's family is not good enough to get any support for the millions of tax dollars he pays into the American government with every product he buys to support his family.

    Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are totally selfish self cenatered -*********rs that need a head check to see they cannot simply deny people the beneifits they need to feed themselves and their families.

    The rich will have to come off some of those billions so that the American economy and the American governement can come back on common ground.

    Sorry,Mr.Pretty your lies won't mask the truth.

    August 12, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  3. Tom

    I'm a moderate to liberal, but I give Ryan for putting forth some form of plan. It isn't perfect, and I could take issue with several of his proposals. However, some of this proposals are sound. The problem in Washington, with every American's thinking when it comes to politics now, is that everything is black and white, good and bad. Nobody wants to find middle ground. Nobody wants to admit the other may actually have a GOOD idea. God forbid, that would be treason against your political party!

    August 12, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  4. SafeJourney

    Paul Ryan is already defined by his budget plan to take from the middle class and poor and seniors and GIVE to the rich like Mitt.
    No thank you Mitt and Ryan

    Obama/Biden 2012

    August 12, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  5. Lizzy10

    I'll define him-part of a political ticket most Independents won't vote for.

    August 12, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  6. Wonhunglowe

    There is nothing to DISSECT: No matter how u cut, slce, or dice it....this is nothing but a UNG UPSTART WHUMP!

    August 12, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  7. Jm

    The US Conference of Catholic Bishops called Ryan's plan an assault on those in need. Ryan's is trying to cut taxes for the wealthiest and then cut services for the elderly, our veterans and Pell grants for education. Couple that with Romney keeping his money in foreign offshore accounts and wanting to start another GOP war with Iran, with my love of this country and our troops, in no way can I vote for these two.

    August 12, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  8. Wire Palladin, N.Y.

    I greatly appreciate that he is solution minded, and willing to xctually tackle issues. The last 4-5 years we've seen a lot more blaming, backbiting, and a culture of identifying problems without wanting to fix them the right way. We can't just magically give money to all without figuring out a counterbalance.

    August 12, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  9. Dennis

    I bet Ryan knows what he reads.

    August 12, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  10. Pat

    What's to define? He's the poster boy of WANNABE!

    August 12, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  11. Tonyb

    He's the ultimate washington insider and partisan hack- notwithstanding Romney's lies. The guys been in DC his entire career. What job has he ever held in the private sector- answer- ZERO.

    August 12, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  12. Vic

    FINALLY a ticket that is Intelligent and Honest! THIS Independent supports Romney/Ryan! America WILL be STRONG again! God Bless

    August 12, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  13. kotter49

    Americans would benefit from an increased understanding of irony. Ryan, with his pro private sector stance has been at the government trough for his whole adult life and wants to stay there. Shouldn't he follow his beliefs and look for private sector work.

    August 12, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  14. Hillcrester

    A really bad choice if Romney thought he still had a chance at the Presidency.

    A more understandable choice if he knew there was no possibility of winning and wanted to elevate a possible 2016 contender into the spotlight.

    D'ya suppose?

    August 12, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  15. mistamista

    @jony Not at all. If he has no destructive, divisive and anti-community political agenda, he'll be fine. I think that YOU wish that it were more complicated to define the guy....but it'll be really easy to use the word "inept".

    @ hazyJOE EXCELLENT POINT! That was what I said as soon as I read this article. I would expect that a man vying for the second most powerful man on the planet would have some items that could define him BEFORE he's named. If not, then nothing said afterward will be of much use.

    @ Robert Warner I love you man! Brilliant from the word go.

    August 12, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  16. Brian P

    Can't wait until they find that skeleton in Ryan's closet. I got my money on a furry farm animal he loved too much.

    August 12, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  17. Rosa, b'ham al

    Paul Ryan has already been defined by his extremist budget proposal, more tax breaks for the rich, who already pay next to nothing, and everyone else under the bus. What else do we need to know?

    August 12, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  18. mslisac363

    Who the heck cares about what Sarah thinks? Just go away lady... Just because someone was stupid enough to pick you and made a mistake is the only thing you are known for. Just get lost already...

    August 12, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  19. 0rangeW3dge

    The British are Coming,,,,The British are Coming !!! and they're really desperate to get that "special" Anglo-saxon relationship in the White House again... "Take It Back, Take It Back,,, Take it back for the Gipper"

    August 12, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  20. Boyamidumb

    Sad what America has become. Ryan and Romney.

    August 12, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  21. JimB

    In 13 years he only passed two bills!!! He is not the answer to end gridlock in D.C. He is an uncompromising right wing ideologue.

    August 12, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  22. Richard Smith

    I do not know much about Ryan, but his eyes are strange-I have only seen eyes like his on snipers and hit men.

    August 12, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  23. Larry L

    What they mean by "define" is another Etch-A-Sketch effort to disguise everything Ryan's said and done as something other than pandering to the Tea Party or the ultra-rich. He's a career politician and a Tea Party zombie. Romney and Ryan are bought and paid for by the Koch brothers and those fat cats don't give a crap for the working folks.

    August 12, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  24. nigel

    This is totally irrelevant, but he looks an awful lot like Nicolas Sarkozy.

    August 12, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  25. Harold E. Newmann

    "define" means "make up stuff about" to a good propagandist

    August 12, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
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