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. sonny chapman

    He is an Ayn Rand Crusader, or Warrior as O'Reilly likes to call his Troops. Who is Ayn Rand ? Put a No or Do Not before every word of Jesus.

    August 13, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  2. Jack

    Paul would have more credibility as a deficit hawk and a budget warrior if he didn't stick to the same old tired ideas that cutting taxes raises revenue and completely refusing to cut the military budget. How anyone who claims to be so concerned about the deficit can also make the claim that the military budget should not be cut is very definition of intellectually dishonest.

    August 13, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  3. Dave

    Let`s begin by defining Paul as a man of incredible integrity with unlimited dedication to the success of all Americans and his exceptional country.

    August 13, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  4. Bob


    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.

    What a fool. He's trying to fix the pile of feces left behind by Cheneybush, and that takes time.

    He's done a pretty remarkable job, if you look at the FACTS.

    August 13, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  5. CalDude

    What is so wrong with equal opportunity?

    EQUAL OUTCOME is dependent upon how the individual perform or executes his/her equal opportunity.

    August 13, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  6. MMeans

    Great, another politician, that according to his bio, has never held a real job.

    August 13, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  7. Dave

    Romney and Ryan will lift the Yoke of the DNC from the necks of ignorant Americans. There is a new plan in town.

    August 13, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  8. joe

    Funny how you spout remember Bush but forgotten Obama. Even the most die hard Obama supports like any valid arguement to support him. The biggest defense is your complaints not to say anything bad about him. Sorry but he is the biggest political tool for awhile.

    August 13, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  9. Brain

    This guy should scare every American, Democrats and Republicans. He wants to cut aid to seniors and the poor, cut funding for schools across America and at the same time, give EVEN MORE tax cuts to those making over a million dollars a year.....which are the exact people he represents in Wisconsin. I"M SICK AND TIRED OF HEARING ALL THE STUPID AMERICANS OUT THERE BLAMING OBAMA FOR SPENDING BEYOND OUR MEANS>>>> REGEAN WAS THE KING OF OVER SPENDING AND THE TWO BUSH'S CONTINUED THAT>>> FOR GOD'S SAKE, GO LOOK AT A LONG TERM CHART OF OUR NATIONAL DEBT...GO EDUCATE YOURSELVES. TWO BUSH TAX CUTS DID NOTHING TO PREVENT A DEPRESSION, AND MORE TAX CUTS WONT EITHER.

    August 13, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  10. Terri

    Our choices this election are corporate America with a little bit for the average worker or corporate America with a lot for the top 3%...yeehaw.

    August 13, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  11. bam

    he was already defined as a nutcase at war against the middle class and seniors...
    nothing like adding Seniors to the war mittens has waged against.... Science, Teachers, Policeman, Firemen, Gays, Economy, non christians etc etc etc

    August 13, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  12. mike

    This guy's "legislative record" amounts to proposing a LEAFLET as a budget plan.
    His private sector employment record amounts to working for his daddy for a couple of years.
    He is a career politician who has done nothing either as a politician or in the private sector.
    He is just another Koch Brothers backed MUPPET..

    August 13, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  13. Steve

    When the CBO analysized Ryan's budget they used his figures for future revenue and non defense costs. The CBO stated that historically his numbers were too optimistic. Even with the optimistic numbers the rich pay less and the poor and middle class pay more. Senior citizens personal medical costs would go way up. Defense spending would increase. States would have to spend more. Those are the facts.

    August 13, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  14. Voiceinthewind

    The Shrub was the worst president never elected as president of America but these two guys together will be even worse at driving America farther into banckrupcy than The Shrub did. We are still trying to dig out of The Shrubs mess and will never get out if these two idiots are elected.

    August 13, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  15. Rich

    Im not a fan of having 21 plus trillion national debt with Obama. That's all that needs to be said.

    August 13, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  16. mike

    Val, you cannot vote Romney/Paul and claim to be a "moderate independent". That's like saying you're a vegetarian, but you eat cheeseburgers.

    August 13, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  17. THX1953

    I think that looking in from the left, the headline should really read "The race to Deface Paul Ryan".

    August 13, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  18. winchester74

    Ryan has been in Congress for 14 years. In that time he has had 2 – count 'em – 2 – bills passed through Congress. The first bill was to rename a post office. The second bill was to set new standards for archery equipment. You want to talk about lazy, ineffective government employees sucking the government teat? Start with Paul Ryan.

    August 13, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  19. winchester74

    Ryan has been in Congress for 14 years. In that time he has had 2 – count 'em – 2 – bills passed through Congress. The first bill was to rename a post office. The second bill was to set new standards for archery equipment. You want to talk about lazy, ineffective government employees sucking the government nay nays? Start with Paul Ryan.

    August 13, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  20. Justin

    All of you have simply no idea how business works. Tax incentives for big business keep manufacturing over here, the liberal government raising tax rates and forcing health care on them makes them go overseas to stay profitable.

    August 13, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  21. Dee

    Wow Val! You think those clowns are going to make it better? The president has limited power and congress, our main governing bodies, have failed us with cutting down legislation that would help solve this crisis. FDR was one of the greatest presidents, and ideas such as improving infrastructure and putting people to work during the great depression helped save the US economy, and when Obama tries to implement them, he gets slammed. Coorperations did not bail the US out of the Great Depression, the government did. To think that the government plays little or no role in the economy is just foolish thinking.

    August 13, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  22. the dude

    After Obama managed to triple the deficit in just three years, we need a "budget warrior."

    Giving more money to democrats is like giving your car keys and a bottle of whiskey to teenagers.

    August 13, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  23. Elperro

    The fiscal ideologues of the GOP led by Mr. Ryan have but one goal: cripple the fed. They claim to care about the budget, but when wielding the power they only inflate it. They claim to care about tax burden, but only shift the responsibility down to those that can least afford to pay it. They appoint justices to enshrine into law that "corporations are people" and dream of a world where the fed no longer provides services to the public and financial oligarchies are instead free to manipulate the country as they see fit. The enormous military of course is still necessary to flex their world-wide interests and keep the unwashed masses in line.

    August 13, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  24. eroteme

    'Obama's campaign' says Ryan is a right-wing ideologue. Would this mean Obama and 'Obama's campaign' are left-wing ideologues? It is Obama's campaign who claims Romney is a murderer as well as a number of other unfavorables. Of course it is Obama as well who claims Romney is in fact a felon. Obama likes to distance himself from his campaign gurus but is he or is he not the leader of his left-wing campaign ideologuers. Are his campaign gurus speaking for themselves and not for him? Who's in charge? Who ever is in charge it is quite an accomplishment to keep Obama's first term record and the economy out of news coverage. Of course Obama's supporting mainstream media is happy to oblige.

    August 13, 2012 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  25. Lynda/Minnesota


    Good luck with your vote. Paul Ryan has been a Representative in the United States Congress who for the past 13 years voted on the very policies you (bless you for being honest) agree Obama inherited.

    All things considered, Ryan is part of the problem, not the solution. He is also credited for voting NO to each and every one of Obama's proposals for the past 3 1/2 years. Apparently making Obama a one term president was more important to Paul Ryan than righting a country gone wrong financially. Understandable, considering Paul Ryan is now hoping to become Vice President of the United States. The very same United States that Ryan allowed to stagnat in hopes of fullfilling his own farfetched dreams.

    August 13, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
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