The race to define Paul Ryan
August 12th, 2012
04:41 PM ET
8 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. AJ

    The ryan plan says outsource jobs but companies can say profits were made here, just for share holders

    August 13, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  2. Val

    DON'T BELIEVE THE OBAMA ONSLAUGHT OF LIES LIES LIES !!!!! I am a moderate independent and I must say ROMNEY/PAUL have my vote in November! How ridiculous for those of you STILL CHOOSING TO BE ignorant fools AND believe in Obama && his continual lies – unlike many of you – I learn from my mistakes (im NOT voting for him again) – 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 has made this HISTORY'S SLOWEST RECOVERY-EVER!!!!!! On top of that don't believe "throw grandma off the cliff" jargon either ABOUT RYAN – OBAMA HIMSELF CUT 500 BILLION FROM MEDICARE !!!!!! (WHY AREN'T PPLE TALKING ABOUT THAT?) The one thing he didn't lie about was that he would bring change – horrible – slow – weak change!!!!!!

    August 13, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  3. gisthatright

    PAUL RYAN is a NUTZ. He wants to stop mortgage interest deductions on income tax returns. Forget it!

    August 13, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  4. MartyGRMI

    This "Fiscal Conservative" voted for 3 of the 4 things that lead to our short term deficit issues. Namely, Medicare Part D, Bush/Obama Tax cuts and both wars.

    August 13, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  5. Thomas

    He's a budget warrior who happens to also be an idealogue.

    August 13, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  6. eeyore

    ...why do americans want rapid change? why do they hate long term planning, goals, and strategy? is this the immediate gratification syndrome people are prone to here? i, too, am a independent but as a minority...racially and religiously and i do not see myself voting for a party who considers me as nonconsequential and doesnt represent my views or concerns...and only concerns themselves with the 1% i work for...i guess according to them...i am a "fief" in their social class stratus...but i do vote...

    August 13, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  7. CNN Fan

    Before I read his records, Paul Ryan is nice looking guy, young and smart. After I knew his records, this guy is very dangerous for young, old, middle-class and working americans.... His plan is the same idea as Tea party.....Extremist...and all his plan are about cut all benefit for poor and middle-class to support 1%...he is too smart in the wrong direction...

    August 13, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  8. steve

    The best way to define Paul Ryan? The New Vice President of the US! That's how.

    August 13, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  9. mar tark

    Will the real Ryan come out of closet "follower of Rand, Russian born author – Rand celebrated greed and selfishness, rejected Judeo-Christian morality, and set forth an alien vision of a nearly government-free America that would be ruled by its industrialists and bankers - an untaxed super-rich elite. She was a strident atheist."

    August 13, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  10. Fairdeal

    Here is the Ryan budget according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,

    House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget would:
    * impose trillions of dollars in spending cuts, at least 62 percent of which would come from low-income programs,
    * enact new tax cuts that would provide huge windfalls to households at the top of the income scale. New analysis by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center finds that people earning more than $1 million a year would receive $265,000 apiece in new tax cuts, on average, on top of the $129,000 they would receive from the Ryan budget’s extension of President Bush’s tax cuts.
    * the new tax cuts at the top would dwarf those for middle-income families. After-tax incomes would rise by 12.5 percent among millionaires, but just 1.8 percent for middle-income households.
    * Low-income working families would actually be hit with tax increases.

    August 13, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  11. Rob

    Typical tunnel visioned GOP hack, there defined........

    August 13, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  12. Al

    Ryan, like Rand Paul are Libertarians. I've known Libertarians all through my life. Every one of them smoked dope and were Atheist. I find nothing wrong with Atheist or dope smokers, but I'm not sure I would want them in power. Some were good guys, some were jerks, but all had ideas set in stone. They were not team players.

    I remember the Catholic Bishops have ask him to decide between the Atheist Ayn Rand and Jesus. I don't know what he chose, but being a Libertarian he will probably pick Ayn because there is solid evidence she existed.

    August 13, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  13. nolimits3333

    GOP plan, bankrupt the government through unfunded and illegal wars, then blame the left, shutdown Medicare and SS and reinstate debtors prisons and indentured servitude.

    August 13, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  14. KirkUSA

    We have trade agreements with China, and look at their civil rights record. I'll never understand why the US ignores this.

    August 13, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  15. aCriticalEye

    "Ryan's biography diverges from the narrative that Romney offered.", that is perhaps the nicest word anyone could use in place of the LIE. The quote should say, RobMe is again far from reality, and without a clue.

    OBAMA in '12

    August 13, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  16. joegeek2

    This DEMS are done with their LIES, LIES, LIES. They tried to smear Romney about not paying his taxes as a last resort of desperation. LOL

    August 13, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  17. Terri

    Another election of voting for the lesser of two depressing. Obama/Biden have my vote. Romney/Paul are in it for the wealthy and couldn't care less about the struggling middle class. Tax increases with spending cuts is what we need and neither party has the cajones to do what needs doing. I am not feeling any love for the nation as a whole from any candidate, no guts to do the hard job that needs to be done because so many people refuse to admit that it is the right thing to do. Wage disparity, taxes too low for the wealthy, over spending, health care COSTS, better regulation over Wall Street and one will do anything to fix the problems.

    August 13, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  18. Melvin Painter

    So what is social security and medicare? That's right SOCIAL PROGRAMS. Right now it is unsustainable as more people are using than putting into along with the wonderful government taking from the programs and funneling it to wasteful ones. Liberals love to talk crap and twist because that is all they have. If we don't fix the liberal's programs now, we will definitely not have anything later. It's no wonder the liberals voted for someone who had NO accomplishments, a secret background, and a hope to trash this country.

    August 13, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  19. Abe

    In Ryan's America the sick and the elderly have two choices:

    A. Be Rich

    B. Die.

    August 13, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  20. yah right

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

    ROFL, you do realize both sides are in the pockets of the corporations. Pick your poison, they are both just as effective.

    August 13, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  21. steven harnack

    Kind of hard to convince people that he is a reluctant politician when he got a degree in political science and went straight to Washington from college. The Romney campaign thinks that we are total idiots with no ability to put the facts together. That only applies to their base. But then those seem to be the only people that they are trying to convince with their blatant lies anyway.

    August 13, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  22. LogicalSkepticism

    Here's what voters need to understand about the brand of "self reliance" and "individualism" that people like Ryan and Romney are trying to sell: it only applies to citizens who aren't wealthy or powerful. The last thing wealthy Republicans want is for the government to stop working in their favor and passing policy that provides them with support. You never hear Republicans claiming that corporate status, which only exists due to the laws and legal system provided by the government, is an example of "socialism" or the "nanny state". You never hear them say that private defense contractors who make most of their money from government contracts paid for by taxpayers lack "self reliance".

    August 13, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  23. yoshimoto

    Ryan is a bad choice. You know why, because he is the only adult in a room/country full of greedy children. People are not going to vote for someone who is going to take something away for them, EVEN IF IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO BECAUSE WE ARE BROKE.. So, Mitt and Ryan had better emphasize their job creation plan because people are interested in getting decent jobs more than they are a measly government check. Perception is reality and right now the perception is that Ryan is going to kill your grandmother and little children, so they need to work doubly hard to change that perception. You almost need to trick people, just like Hope and Change.

    August 13, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  24. Al

    Ubdumb. Yes it is a radical idea. We have a party that likes to borrow and spend, the other thinks if we are going to spend we have to either cut services or raise revenues(taxes). I like the Democratic pay as you go philosophy instead of the credit card, let the poor and middle class pick up the tab Republicans.

    August 13, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  25. Libdumb

    Simply stated Ryan is a good person who is un-electable in this Country. His simply philosophy is stop taxing and spending and live within you means. I really hope that Obama gets re-elected and will watch the complete economic destruction of America globally. Like Mitt I am good to go for the time I have left. Start practicing standing in food lines for days, it will soon be in your neighborhood.

    August 13, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
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