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. Sirned

    Republican policies .Another name for quicksand.....

    August 12, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. parnell in canada

    Ryan and Romney ... i just never trust a men who dye their hair.

    August 12, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  3. Dumbpolitics

    His plan to fix SS and Medicare and Medicaid are horrible and won't work. If implemented they would not help most if not all of the taxpayers who work their whole life contributing to these programs. There are way better solutions. One way is to just tax a 1% on everything anyone makes in this society for Social Security take the cap off. Just 1% for Medicare and Medicaid samething on everything anyone makes in this country. It would be a huge tax break for the 99% of Americans. But of course it would mean the 1% of those rich guys who always buys our government would have to pay more because there are no more caps. Plus we don't need to take any contributions from the real job creators who are in the 99%. That would be a big tax break for small business owners. We would never ever have any money problems with these programs ever again. There now he is not the only one with a plan. Under this plan nobody has to die for the rich people to have less taxes.

    August 12, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  4. AgrippaMT

    Paul Ryan is already well and fully described. He is an ultra right wing extremist, tea bagger and a man who would bring utter disaster upon America if, by some awful mischance, he were to be elected. Fortunately, he won't be.

    August 12, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  5. ronald

    Lets see, Rich man picks middle class man to do rich man's bidding.. Middle class man wants to move up the ladder.. Rich man has been manipulating middle class men whole life for profit or benefit... Middle class people r less likely to dis
    like middle class man and resist the evils of rich man..... Rich men win on the back of middle class wholesome and struggling people.... Sounds like a King Author story from the dark ages.... No, it is the Romney/Ryan connection! A Tale Where Middle Class People Get Stooged! Stay Tune, Next episode, Quality of Life is Based on Distractions. Republicans r going to make u a victim then come rescue u.. The relief of being recused is going to distract u from the true aggressor........

    August 12, 2012 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  6. pinkfloyd43

    The guy could be superman but it's not going to get him elected and the 'other guy' is not going to cut it with the American folks! No matter what the Obama haters say the pickings are quite slim on the other side. Get a new guy that starts over or stick with a guy who has been there and done that!

    August 12, 2012 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  7. scott

    Its a shame, I have yet to see one campaign add about what Obama is going to do to improve things outside of taxing a few rich people. Np budget plan, no Foreign Policy plan, no Educational plan nothing at all, All i see are attacks and smears from Obama on Romney. Grant you Romney is doing some of the same, but at least he is putting out his plan to improve this country. I have yet to see that from Obama.

    August 12, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  8. SixDegrees

    Could we please NOT ask Sarah Palin about this, or about anything else? I am sick to death of her shallow yapping and blather. She's faded into the background recently, and that has improved the level of political discourse in the nation immensely. Let's do what we can to keep her out of it completely. She has nothing of value to add.

    August 12, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  9. jasonn13

    If you want to 'define' Paul Ryan, all you have to do is play that video of him handing Obama his lunch over the economics of Affordable Care Act. He is one articulate gentleman and he backs up his arguments with facts instead of smoke and mirrors. What a novel concept, eh?

    August 12, 2012 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  10. Rick Simm

    The lies, slander and smear campaign by the Obama Regime should start tomorrow.
    Obama cannot run on his accomplishment because there are none.
    Where is that "hope and change"?

    August 12, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  11. Herb

    What will happen when the Democrats request/demand that Ryan release HIS last ten years' tax returns?

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

    Romney/Ryan 2012: Because there aren't enough bigots in positions of power.

    August 12, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  13. scott

    Discernment, i hate to tell you but you are wrong. Palin was picked to get the female vote, and the middle class vote. The Tea Party did not threaten McCain and they did not threaten Romney. you need to get your facts together before you spout off.

    August 12, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  14. YBP

    Interesting stuff at a website belonging to Mitt's cousin Park Romney. Look into it.

    August 12, 2012 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  15. Eric

    It will be the race to demonize and smear Mr. Ryan........

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

    Mitt and Paul are at a restaurant, the waiter brings the check. Mitt: Give him the check. Paul: No, give the public the check.

    August 12, 2012 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  17. Jeff

    Ryan is a great choice....Obama and his failure of a team are wanting to talk about anything but the economy. Obama's mantra for the last 4 years? "Look....I am cool and doing cool stuff, but it's Congress that is making your live miserable". Does not sound like the leader of the free world to me!!!

    August 12, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  18. Don in Albuauerque

    Ann Rand died of lung cancer because she did not believe smoking caused it. She died while receiving welfare payments, and other govt subsidies because she was broke. She also received these payments through her attorney under the name Ann O'Conner. Another of the GOP's great lies. "Atlas Shrugged?" More like "Atlas Broke Wind." And that is what I smell every time the "Diabolical Duo" speak.

    August 12, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  19. someGuy

    @pander bear: hahaha nice. It's ironic that social Darwinism is touted most often by those who don't accept evolution or natural Darwinism. This is speaking from what I've seen: many people have a tendency to believe whatever makes them feel good about themselves, it's sort of a self-defense mechanism for the ego.

    Social darwinism makes one feel ambivalent about not caring for other people's problems/troubles. Fox new is a perfect example of this when they ran that series of pieces which put empathy in a negative light. Empathy, seriously. 'You know what is dumb? Caring. So dumb and such a waste of time.' A bunch of trolls who want to feel good about being heartless.

    Can't say social darwinism is never true, oftentimes one does cook their own goose so to speak. But the problem I have with SD is it can quickly and easily lead one to feel ok and even good about actively screwing over others for personal gain.

    There's a difference between someone walking off a cliff cause they aren't paying attention and someone getting thrown off by another who is bigger and stronger.

    August 12, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  20. difoderit


    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.

    but but but Brenn Mitt just said that he is a reluctant politian – and we all know that Mitt would never try to mislead us right???

    August 12, 2012 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  21. Rob

    Is it just me or does this dynamic duo put the Dukes of Hazard theme song in your head.."Just a good ol boy"

    August 12, 2012 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  22. mandy

    At least Obama picked Biden with foreign policy experience. NEITHER Mitt or Ryan have ANY experience. This should make everyone AFRAID of this ticket.

    August 12, 2012 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  23. Diana

    Romney is not winning the women voters over and he has chosen to run with a vice president candidate that has a strong view of anti-abortion. Dumb move!

    August 12, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  24. 1tonks

    Unless the European market takes a nose dive in the next three months, I think the GOP can kiss their presidential ticket good bye after the VP pick. Those two know NOTHING about foreign policy (Mitt was laughed at all over Europe!!) and will run this country to the ground! Any presidential candidate who will not release tax forms has something shady up their sleeves (including a $70,000 tax credit for their horse!!) That is disgusting considering that one horse is worth more money than an average person's salary with a graduate degree!

    August 12, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  25. jesseballew

    I've looked into Mr. Putin's eye's and into Mr.Ryan's eye's. Just setting here trying to deside which one is "The Anti Christ". Seem's to be a toss up. But I'm pretty certain that Mr. Ryan is America's "Anti Christ".

    August 12, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
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