The race to define Paul Ryan
August 12th, 2012
04:41 PM ET
9 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. otterman20

    Yeah, I can see Ryan and the Republicans' Medicare plan as clear as day. It'll be no different and even way worse than when someone loses their job, and loses their healthcare along with it and then the company shoves this Cobra insurance in your face in which you'd like to throw it right back in their face as it's ridicously too expensive.
    It'l be even worse for the Ryan and Republican plan for Medicare. I can see it now. "Here future 65 year old, here's your $100 a month voucher towards YOU finding private insurance. Good luck to you." "Hello insurance insurance company, I'm 65 years old, here's my $100 voucher." "Thank you 65 year old, our lowest tier insurance plan will cost you only $300 a month so you only have to come up with $200 a month of you're own money to afford it and that will cover you for stubbed toes, sprains, and cramps." "But I'm 65 years old, I'm at that age where I could possibly come down with something more serious like a heart attack, cancer or Lou Gehrig's disease." "Of course. and we have other plans that'll cover you for those more serious problems. They start at $1500 a month. So with your $100 voucher, you only have to come up $1400 a month 65 year old." "I can't afford that!" He then throws his measly $100 voucher in the face of the insurance man and says: "All right give me the only insurance I can afford. You know, the one that'll cover you for the equivalent of stubbed toes." 65 year old then gets cancer at 66 and.....DIES.

    August 13, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  2. Lokust

    I suspect poster "Val" learned that they were a "moderate independent" from the "fair and balanced" folks at Fox "News"

    August 13, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  3. superlogi

    And, Barry Obama is the left wing zealot promoting Marxist ideology.

    August 13, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. Ashton67

    MITT ROMNEY – PAUL RYAN 2012 is the average American's worst nightmare!! Help America continue to dig it's way out of the hole that Bush – Cheney dug it into, VOTE OBAMA – BIDEN 2012!!

    August 13, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. David

    It's interesting to hear Republicans complaining about cuts in Medicare spending, especially complaints from Ryan, who wanted to make the same cuts. What these folks don't tell you is that the cuts that Obamacare proposes don't affect beneficiaries like Grandma, rather they limit the reimbursement to drug companies and the like. And for those that don't know, we here in the US of A pay far more for drugs than any other country, including other rich, developed nations. Ryan's plan would have cut Grandma's benefits and moved money from her back to the drug companies and providers. So don't drink the coolaid before you learn the details!

    August 13, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  6. PJ

    Ryan is totally insensitive to seniors. Cuts in Medicare and Social Security is not the way to go.

    August 13, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. Name Champsbabe

    As an Independent I might have voted for Romney and Portman. I WILL NOT VOTE FOR ROMNEY AND RYAN. PERIOD.

    August 13, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  8. Neil

    Paul Ryan on Bailouts and Government Stimuli

    -Voted YES on TARP (2008)
    -Voted YES on Economic Stimulus HR 5140 (2008)
    -Voted YES on $15B bailout for GM and Chrysler. (Dec 2008)
    -Voted YES on $192B additional anti-recession stimulus spending. (Jul 2009)

    Romney better CHANGE HIS MIND before the convention. NO MORE BAILOUTS!

    August 13, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  9. David A


    August 13, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  10. George

    The Tea Party Republicans are the “it’s not my problem Republicans.”

    August 13, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  11. Neil

    Paul Ryan on Civil Liberties

    -Voted YES on federalizing rules for driver licenses to hinder terrorists. (Feb 2005)
    -Voted YES on making the PATRIOT Act permanent. (Dec 2005)
    -Voted YES on allowing electronic surveillance without a warrant. (Sep 2006)

    August 13, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  12. ForGoodOfAll

    Ryan is a young ultra-right winged politician with few years of legislative experience. Rather than boost Romney's support, he will drive away moderates and make Obama a 2 term President. As a Democrat, I am happy about Romney's pick. Thanks Mitt!

    August 13, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  13. JD

    I'm a registered independent and I have to back the Obama camp again. I don't think anyone understands how low this country was in 2008 when Obama took office. The banners of hope and change that were offered were not going to be instant changes and you would be foolish to think so. In my opinion, although slowly and not without some interesting obstructions from the Republicans, Obama's ideas are working. I have heard nothing from the Republican camp that makes me think they will do any better if given the presidential reigns. Honestly, it sounds like we may even go backwards quite a bit with them. This doesn't make me a democrat. I'm just calling it like I see it.

    August 13, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  14. Trish

    people please do your research Mr. Romney is a Mormon...this should explain it all. The true measure of a Man is his beliefs and Mormon says it all. As chairman of the board of the Marriott, he had the Marriott with tax havens not paying taxes in the United States. If we put him as President, and his connections with the business community, this country would be outsourced, bankrupt, and destructed all because of greed and entiltlement.

    August 13, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  15. Fed up

    I like how the media and the liberal sheeple always say right wing ideologue like its bad.....left wing ideology has done wonders right folks? Geesh.

    August 13, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  16. Michael39

    Just look at Ryan's stated goals:
    1. Wishes to end Medicare & Social Security as we know them and turn them into a privatized savings account-based system. 80% of the public is opposed to this idea, yet the right are still pushing it.
    2. Believes that the second a sperm hits an egg, it is a fully-formed human, thus is demanding the day-after pill be made illegal.
    3. Voted against the equal pay act for women.
    4. He is committed to the long-disproved ideology of Ayn Rand, someone who top-tier economists have repeatedly stated is highly misinformed on how economics works – Someone who's ideas would be dangerous, if implemented, exacerbating even greater class inequality (and the USA's is already the worst in the whole first world). This is basically a man who doesn't believe in any oversight or regulation of the market, wants no labor laws, no minimum wage, no workers rights, no polluter laws. In other words, he wants to take us back to the age of sweatshops and slave labor. Guys like this legislate for the owner (1%), never the citizen (99%). You can't run an effective economy that way.

    Still think this guy isn't an extremist?

    August 13, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  17. Saboth

    As a "lower middle class" person, I see nothing from Romney's camp that is in my best interest. Tax cuts on the rich, jobs will continue to be outsourced overseas, pay will continue to stagnate, healthcare costs will most likely climb even faster. To anyone saying Obama did "nothing" about our economy: #1. The president does not control our economy. Americans and corporations do. #2. While the economy *is* lagging, it's definitely better than when he took office. Remember the 6k stock market and the possibility that unemployment could have reached 15, 20%+? If the auto makers had gone bankrupt, that right there would have been millions of jobs. It's like saying you got shot, and the doctor did nothing about the hole in your chest. Well, he kept it from getting infected, patched it up and he did as much as he could. If he hadn't taken care of it, you would have died. It's just going to have to heal on it's own over time, just like the economy.

    August 13, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  18. Peggy Munro

    As a boomer I find Ryan to be way, way too old in his ideas and vision for the country.

    August 13, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  19. Wendy Dale

    In Atlas Shrugged, Rand's "Heros" gun down in cold blood a security guard who chooses to do his job rather than to obey their illegal demands. If that's Capitalist morality (as Rand suggests it is), I'll have to pass. The fact that any politician would claim inspiration from such literary garbage should be disturbing to anyone with democratic ideals. Has there ever been a "free-market capitalist" ideologue who did not doubt their "moral" right to break the law?

    August 13, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  20. Trish

    our social programs: Medicare, Social Security, etc are underfunded because so many people are not working and paying in the system. Once more people get back to work, the programs will correct itself. I am all for increasing taxes if that means helping our country but overhauling the safety net people who have worked all their lives paid into the system is just morally wrong.

    August 13, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  21. marjee123

    WHEN IS CNN GOING TO CHANCE IT'S NAME TO RYAN I AM SO SICK OF THAT WEASELS PICTURE ON THE FRONT PAGE. I have had this site as my home page since the early 2000s and have never ever ever ever seen them keep a picture on the front and articles like they are Ryan. They can't make people like him, the more the post they more they disgust. Even when President Obama at the time won the nomination he never got that press, and when he won the presidency he never got that press. It seems like CNN has their head up republican butt so far they can't get off Ryan.

    August 13, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  22. YtownSports

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

    This from the spokesperson for a left-wing ideologue as reflected by the positions he's taken.

    August 13, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  23. James

    GOP is GON+e = gone !

    They are so much dependent on the right wing that it has lots everyone from middle on onwards !

    It is a broken party trying everything to survive but making mistakes as it goes along.
    It still needs support from radical who appeal their 'right' , needs rogue elements that cannot become poster but need support from them like, Sarah Palin !
    Needs Carl Rowe in the back, Bush and Chenney somewhere in between but cannot talk about it ?

    Boy if this is not a last ditch effort to save a party what is it ?

    Anyways it is a wrong way to do it. It will only break a party totally that is already in bad shape.


    Old school thoughts have not remained 100 % valid in new age and new world order and new thought and ability to do what is right v/s 'think what is right based upon ideals' is long gone ...

    August 13, 2012 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  24. Ramrod

    Look at all the thin-lipped mean people: Ryan, Romney, GW, Cheney, the Reagans.

    August 13, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  25. Clouds9

    Democrats rejoice!! It's a slam dunk for OBAMA!! BIDEN!! HILLARY AND BILL!!

    August 13, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
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