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. Xman

    I believe the US Government needs to cut spending. I believe it needs to be a far better steward of the money we pay in taxes to keep it going.

    But I do NOT believe in Paul Ryan, his ideas, his vision, or his backing. A Tea Party monkey (and I am being nice) is still a monkey at the end of the day. Paul Ryan does not see nor care for the damage to the poorest of America's population, he does not care about the Middle class working families in his budget and he wants to hurt them all at the expense of helping the rich with even MORE tax breaks and HIGHER defense spending. I am sorry, but the Military Industrial Complex has grown quite enough. Not only have we stuck our fine men and women in uniform in absolutely unnecessary conflicts, but the Complex has swelled to include contractors for translations, laundry, food preparation, fuel and transportation and a host of other "services" at taxpayer cost. WE did not get to vote on these or any conflicts, we were simply stuck with the bill. A bill, btw, that Obama has reduced by getting us the heck out of Iraq and almost Afghanistan now. HE IS DOING THE PEOPLE'S WORK.

    Romney and Ryan are visionless, gutless wonders who aren't fit for their current posts LEAST of all the Oval office.

    August 12, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  2. wade

    This is CODE for We the Liberal press are going to kill you Paul Ryan and protect Obama who is destroying America just the way we like it.

    August 12, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  3. hazyJOE

    shouldn't he be defined already?

    August 12, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  4. Wonhunglowe

    a race to nothingness.....what, more immaturity and nothingness? Who needs this??? I'll take my chances with Obama. At least I have 4 years of knowing noting but the same that we have had....Why do I need a nother questionmark as to what I WILL GET???

    August 12, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. Sunny Day

    I think it important to create sustainable government programs that last generations, even if it means the benefits are a little less. I believe this idea is part of what defines Paul Ryan and that is why I support him.

    August 12, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  6. cameo35

    ...............HERMAN CAIN, SARAH PALIN, PERRY, RON PAUL, AND NOW PAUL RYAN.........................OBAMA HAS MY VOTE..................

    August 12, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  7. Bren

    Ummm......Hey liberals...........Did you know.........Paul Ryan was elected/reelected in a DEMOCRATIC district in Wisconsin 7 TIMES!!! The last time he won was in 2010-with 65% of the vote. Now with Paul Ryan on the ticket–the economy and unemployment will come to the forefront of the election and Obama's record exposed......Something that Obama and the liberals definitely did NOT want to happen!! After all–Obama definitely does not want his disasterous 3-1/2 year record regarding the economy and unemployment exposed for all voters to see!!

    August 12, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  8. NukeTim

    Paul Ryan: ZERO

    August 12, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  9. rand

    They didn't try to DEFINE Sarah Palin................they SMEARED HER. I am not even a fan of hers but what the media attempted to make up about her was brutal.

    August 12, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  10. jony

    What the headline really reads:

    The race to dig up dirt and trash Paul the state liberal media

    August 12, 2012 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  11. SokrMom

    I was under the impression that Ryan was already well-defined, as the leader of that small hear-no-reason group that still believes Reagan's trickle-down economic policies are good for the Country. Which means this ticket teams a member of the wealthy 1% with a member of the intellectual 1%.

    August 12, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  12. Robert Warner

    Thank you, Mr. Romney. Never has it been easier to understand the danger, to this country, of a Romney presidency. You will bankrupt our country to make the rich unfairly richer. To address that bankruptcy caused by tax cuts for the rich, you'll tell us to give them more tax cuts. When that makes us even worse, you'll say that the rich should pay nothing. When that makes us worse, you'll say we should work for the rich for free. When that makes us worse, you'll tell us to pay the rich to allow us to work for them.

    August 12, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  13. fedupwithla

    It's all about cheese from Wisconsin, if you ask me. Think about it!

    August 12, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  14. Conservative Chris

    Of course CNN is going to pooh pooh ANY republican, you know because their interview with Ted Turner
    revealed he supported OBAMACare and Obama, Soledad O'Brien Loves Him, how could they come out
    with any comments that weren't far left and not so fair and balanced. Maybe we should move the White House
    to Hollywood......Congrats Paul Ryan and Mitt....Best of Luck to you beating the Socialist in November

    August 12, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  15. AgeofInsanity

    Already the lies are streaming out of Romney's mouth about his VP pick. Surely, someone held a gun to Ryan's head when he went directly to D.C. after graduating from college to work as a congressional aide.

    Spare me the revisionist history about this guy. His family owns a large and successful construction business. Why didn't he go to work there?

    August 12, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  16. Paul

    It's a bit late to define Mr. Ryan now, his infamous budget, that the Conference of Catholic Bishops called "immoral", has been out for 2 years.

    August 12, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  17. amarjeet

    Ryan has been Chairman Congress Budget Committee in Republican Congress. His actions, leanings & speeches are well engraved on American citizens who are victims of his lack of realism & vision. He has always targeted Medicare & Social Security which are earned by American working people during service or contribution to taxes directly or indirectly. His vision is tunnel not conforming to modern technology of looking ahead & opening new avenues. He believes in sucking the existing resources not creating new avenues or resources through rational & scientific concepts. Ryan is not indicative of his real traits as he limits economics to capitalism not with other vital parts of economics like distribution & production. No production, no distribution & believe strongly investments in off shore industries with no scope of American looking for jobs, economic development or other sectors to strengthen America. They like clapping & clapping with no realism. They have no solution to immigration with more than 50% American disabled, old & obese. They have no respect for preventive health & care of women & child care." If wealth is lost, nothing is lost. If Heath is lost, everything is lost" as man/women go to death bed that they are waiting in their vision for American citizens. He is extremist capitalist like old traders with no modern vision of HR enrichment & economic development. Human Assets are the richest resources that he & Romney have no vision to develop in America. Ryan believes in inertial & stagnation not positive contribution so needed in civilized society. He is a political pervert. A book can be written on his conduct in Congress & presentation of financial management.

    August 12, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  18. Fred Smith

    Defining Ryan is easy. You can do it in one word... Idiot. The same fits for mittens. Obama would fit under liar.

    August 12, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  19. Tom

    Ayn Rand had a gold pin (brooche) designed and made up for her: it was of a DOLLAR SIGN and she wore it proudly. No surprise Ryan-HOOD is fascinated with her.

    August 12, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  20. Discernment


    ANSWER: They were both GOP VP-picks by the extreme-right and forced on respective Republican Presidential nominees. They tied John McCain's hands in 2008 with Sarah Palin, and now forcing their pick of Paul Ryan on Mitt Romney.

    The 2008 GOP Presidential nominee John McCain desperately wanted to pick Joe Lieberman, but Ann Coulter and the rest of the GOP extremist balked and threaten to boycott the Republican National Convention (RNC) of 2008.

    Now, four years later – here we go again; the GOP has threaten their 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney that if he did not pick Tea Party darling Paul Ryan, than they would take their 'bat & ball' and go home without supporting Romney for 2012.

    August 12, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  21. rs

    We already know Mr. Ryan through his "plan": grow the deficit; choke off Medicare (Vouchers? Really?); privatization of Social Security (Yeah, Wall Street is where seniors' retirement money should be!); higher taxes on the poor and middle class; lower taxes for the rich.

    Bottom line: The GOP has officially abandoned the elderly, the poor, and the middle class. They are the party of the rich. JUST THE RICH.

    Nope, not buying.

    August 12, 2012 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  22. CBR

    Mr. Romney wanted a running mate who was experienced and could take over the presidency. He choice has been the Republican point man on the budget. The budget he proposed was just that, his proposal. Other ideas will not appear. Since Mr. Romney feels his business background is his strongest credential would he have been better off to have someone who knows about foreign affairs, the military, etc, The ticket does not appear ot be balanced.

    August 12, 2012 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Ryan ain't no Sarah Palin.

    August 12, 2012 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  24. George

    . When Obama gave the UAW control of Chrysler and bailed out states to bail out teachers as a "stimulus" plan I think it was quite telling the direction this country was taking.I know he was handed a terrible plate.But why do you reward the people that put us there.

    August 12, 2012 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  25. packerfans

    Mitt/Ryan best chance beat Obama on Nov 2012!! DO NOT VOTE KING OBAMA and support Babylon America (same Marraige) it is illegal Fedral Law.He might not birth America istead Africa!! VOTE MITT /RYAN !!!!

    August 12, 2012 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
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