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. Phill

    Calling Ryan right-wing ideologue is funny when we have committed Communist's, Marxist's, and Moaist's walking through the White House.

    August 13, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  2. Trish

    can anyone explain why we give millions of american dollars as subsidies to companies who do not need them like the oil industry? isn't this welfare and giving freebies...but the minute american in need rely on their government for help to get back on their feet it is too big a deal. It is not right and I say get rid of all freebies and lets go back to a barter society where individuals can compete amongst themselves instead of working and making the rich richer with our hard labor....Obama was correct in saying that if you build a company it takes others to help you bring your goods and services to the market, purchase your good, and creates wealth and success for you. Most people work but never create real wealth for themselves.

    August 13, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  3. Jewels

    He said on 60 min.. that he too will only release two years of tax returns. This says to me - there are shady businessmen wanting to rule the country - one's that probably have worked the system so much - and yet, want to be trusted with the majorities future. That very majority that was hindered by some of their actions, I suspect. There is nothing right with these two when it comes to politics.

    August 13, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  4. oldpatriot

    so many comments showing Ryan is just another politician, another talking head that does what the power brokers want him to do. he is no different than Biden/Obama/Romney/Pelosi et al... They are all the same slaves to leviathan!

    August 13, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  5. SC

    Paul Ryan is an Ayn Rand Catholic. Translation: he is a false prophet.

    August 13, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  6. sf

    @ MJ

    Really? they're working together to create jobs? really? ummm wasn't the montra of the 2010 mid term elections from republicans umm..let's see..."JOBS JOBS JOBS"? where are the jobs they promised? They spent more time trying to repeal healthcare than to help create jobs...and filibustering every single bill they came across!!! republicans are a joke, they create the mess and expect someone to clean it up over night, and then blame the next person for THEIR ERRORS! Republicans have voted on bills to repeal the Healthcare law 37 times since December...and there's a JOBS PLAN BILL that has not been voted on ONCE!!! now tell me, where's the patriotism from republicans there? do they really care about "American People" as they put it? only "American People" they give a rats Arrss about is rich and white men!!!!

    America get it right in November!...OBAMA 2012!!!

    August 13, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  7. DC Johnny

    UGH. The "option" to try to manage one's own finances and future. How dare he try to give seniors an option, while giving America the only option to saving itself from financial ruin.

    The nerve!!

    August 13, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  8. Aaron

    What about the human rights and terrorist record of China? Oh, it's because they contribute trillions to the world economy and Cuba doesn't. I guess that's a good reason to have an embargo for Cuba and not one for China...

    Freaking double standard...

    Who is the Cuban embargo actually hurting? Cuba's leaders? I'm sure their lives are still pretty cushy. The embargo just hurts Cuba's citizens.

    August 13, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |

    For those who think the Republicans were better at spending, the last administration, just like other republican administrations didn't tax and spend, they borrowed and spent, just to say they didn't raise taxes, which they eventually did anyhow.

    August 13, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  10. G-Man64

    I think I'm going to run for president....seems like a good gig....lots of trips around the country giving worthless speeches that mean absolutely get to take credit for anything that works and you get to blame everybody and anything for what doesn't.

    Nearly half the population is clueless, doesn't pay any taxes and is on the government dole....they'll vote for anyone who continues to give them free money.

    What a need to worry about submitting any budgets....not subject to any borrowing constraints.....the mainstream media in your back pocket....gotta love it!

    August 13, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  11. MBane

    superlogi, you should really educate yourself. Do you even know what Marxist idiology is? The democrats in this country are more conservative than the conservative parties is most other developed nations. Yet, countries like Norway, Sweeden, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Germany are doing a lot better and have higher living standards than we do.

    August 13, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  12. Jeff

    Sadly, CNN will portray him as an idealogue, and Fox/Yahoo will portray him as a Budget guy. Unfortunately, there is only partisan reporting (and CNN is among the worst)... just like partisan politics. If you want truth in reporting, BBC is about as unbiased as it gets. It is finally time that the U.S. adopts a true thrid party which will bring the "hangers on" from both sides and pull them together into a party in the middle that is truly representative of the U.S. as a whole. Obama has done NOTHING for our economy but blame it on Bush... Bush blamed it on Clinton (and so on). Stand up and grab a pair people. This is a FOR THE PEOPLE country, not a FOR THE PARTY country.

    August 13, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  13. Roger

    Re-elect Obama and turn the House in 2012:

    August 13, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  14. DC Johnny


    You just won the award for least-accurate post of all time. Enjoy your stay at Disney World, and say hello to everyone down at the asylum upon your return, you liberal drone robotic loser.



    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 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. TK

    elect romeny and ryan and what you will get is republicans bringing down the deficit on the backs of the poor and former middles class and those that are wealthy will get WEALTHIER, corporate america and the republican will finally move the last of the things that pull americans out of poverty, they started that with moving manufacturing jobs to china and etc now they will remove education and the cost will be so high that only the wealthy will be able to send their kids to college

    August 13, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  16. Bev Varnado

    Good comments, VAL. My sentiments, exactly. I didn't vote for Obama because I didn't think he had enough experience and I didn't like his socialist background. But when he won , I thought, oh well, how much damage can he do? Congress will take care of any problems.HA!! Stupid me. Congress just backed him up to the hilt even when they KNEW he was wrong. It was as if they thought if they didn't something awful was going to happen. Now it has cost a lot of them their position as they will be voted out. I never in my wildest imagination thought one man could do so much damage here and worldwide. Now I know how Hitler grabbed control. Undermine a country's hope , morale and morals and stir in some anti-religion and you are half way there.

    August 13, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  17. Trish

    When Paul Ryan was announced as the running mate for Romney I had an open mind to listen to the ticket...but than the same old same came across...blame blame and more blame...all while putting down our President. I may have been open to change. but all the rhetoric is a turn off. It seems all they want to do is win and not address the real issues america faces. Be honest, Paul stated that his father told him either you are part of the solution or the problem. than he said Obama is part of the problem...this is a turn off, because I have seen our president working feriously with both repubs and dems...if you keep getting slapped in your face and you try and try again, at some point you have to give up. Both sides need to get serious about helping this country not their special interests...and if someone weather its Repubs or Dems win fairly than we all need to except it and stop spreading evil, and division.

    August 13, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. Chris

    Someone stated earlier, "Paul Ryan VOTED YES for the Bailouts! Enough said".

    All I have to say is so did the current POTUS (then Senator Obama). Enough said.

    How about Congress starts doing their job, along with the Senate. Pass real legislation that removes all the twisted and tangled IRS code, and simplifies it so that you don't have to have a band of CPAs that can find loopholes for anybody that has the money to pay them for stretching the tax envelope?

    August 13, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. Jewels

    I have a vision of Ryan winking at me saying "come on, you can trust me..."

    August 13, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  20. Aaron

    Here is the problem with these social programs everyone is so upset about. Take welfare for instance. If you don't work, you can get on welfare. If you get a job, the assistance is removed. Sounds good right? Well, if you get a minimum wage job and actually go out and work for a living, you are apparently no longer worthy of assistance. Yet a minimum wage job is not enough to subsist upon. So we are rewarding NOT working and removing the incentive to actually work at a job. So people give up on the whole low paying job thing and just subsist upon the dole. We reward inaction and punish those who are trying. It needs to change.

    August 13, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  21. Trish

    Country first
    not party first

    August 13, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  22. Dave from Georgia

    Ryan is the head chopper. A perfect definition for his role.

    August 13, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  23. sf

    @ fed up...the difference between right wing ideologue and left wing ideologue is that Right wing ideologue only works for a select few! and the reason that sometimes the left wing ideologue seems to be "wrong" in your eyes is because all you people on the right do is block ideas and create more havoc, spend more of the peoples money, cry, lie, etc etc..and then after all the damage is done, you blame the other give me this garbage that left wing ideologue is somehow "crazy" or "crazier" than right wing ideologue...YOU'RE DELUSIONAL!

    August 13, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  24. bess moore

    God help us!

    August 13, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  25. GORILLA Goat

    "Old people begging in the streets for health care"

    Vote Romnutts/Ryan and that's what you'll get.

    "Grandma without health care." thanks to the GOP.

    August 13, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
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