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.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

- Follow Jim Acosta on Twitter: @JimAcostaCNN

"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."

- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

Filed under: 2012 VP Pick • Paul Ryan • Sarah Palin
soundoff (552 Responses)
  1. Joe

    The liberal, left-wing Democrats do not believe in freedom. They believe in controlling the masses, as can be seen by their countless laws to limit our freedoms and tell us what we can, and can't do anymore. If they have their way, there will be no more individual rights in this country, and this is a country founded on individual rights. They must be stopped in November. NOBAMA 2012. NODEMOCRATS 2012.

    August 12, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  2. Twilight of Aquarius

    Yea! The Catholic – Mormon SuperPac has been born! Ready for an inquisition?

    August 12, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  3. Tim Young

    Paul Ryan wants to govern the country guided by the fantasy novels of the atheistic materialist Ayn Rand. She made no bones about how she dispised the teachings of Christ.

    I say fantasy novels because Rand refused the let any facts of history intrude on her writing. Reading Atlas Shrugged you could get the impression that our railroads were built without any government support. The historical fact is that the transconinental railroad was a government initiave by that great republican, Abraham Lincoln. Every mile of track was backed up to the hilt by American taxpayers.
    So often government initiative goes first and private enterprise follows.

    So often in history government initiative comes first, private enterprise folows

    August 12, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  4. rosethornne

    Ryan is the REAL fan of death panels, just read his plan.

    So hooray for Romney Hood and the Executioner.

    August 12, 2012 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  5. Pditty

    I heard Paul Ryan wants to kill all old people and he beats women and children. I don't need facts just CNN.

    August 12, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  6. Abeslom

    The only one that'll profit from Ryan's plan (scheme ) to privatize social security and medicare is wall street fat cats who just forced Romeny to pick Ryan rather than going with a safe pick like Portman!

    August 12, 2012 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  7. zeyn2010

    No, Ryan is definitely NOT like Sarah Pallin!

    August 12, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  8. zeyn2010

    Paul Ryan is so extreme right that he he is part left with his beliefs!

    August 12, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  9. Donkey Party

    You could go so far as swapping genitals, but Ryan and Palin would still be interchangeable. Who knew the GOP would become so backward and idiotic?

    August 12, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  10. Romney-Ryan want to enslave the middle class

    These two will do all they can to destroy the social safety net, rather than restore tax rates for rich to what they were during the 1950's, when USA was supposedly perfect.

    Vote Romney-Ryan, USA for rich old white men only, just like the good old days!!!!

    August 12, 2012 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  11. justime

    As a liberal I think the Ryan nomination is a win-win. Either his candidacy will fail which is a short term benefit. Or, it will succeed which is a long term benefit; such benefit being the eye opening lifetime lesson on the importance of being a well informed voter.

    August 12, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  12. Donkey Party

    @George – Teachers tanked the economy? Wow, you must be considered brilliant among your peers.

    August 12, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  13. normajean @ verizon ,com

    Someone just wrote...".now they will be out to dig up dirt about Ryan" isn't necessary to do this.....all that has to be done is to repeat what he, himself has said..!!!! He wants to put our medical care into a voucher system.. which means we seniors will be out looking for heallth care and he wants to cut back on Social Security which means we will have less money to keep our heads above water~~~~.....WE DON"T NEED THIS!!!...OUR VOTES ARE IMPORTANT!!!!!!!!!

    August 12, 2012 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  14. Jeffision

    BEFORE: "Ayn Rand taught me my values systems and my beliefs." -Paul Ryan

    NOW: "You know I read her novels when I was young, I thought they were good... Her philosophy is kind of a ridiculous one in my opinion..."

    Which is it, Ryan? Or do you just say whatever is expedient in the moment?

    August 12, 2012 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  15. Mark Plus

    Ryan's conflicted allegiances show how much traction Ayn Rand's alternative humanism has gotten in American culture despite such unpromising beginnings. And this happened spontaneously, without any central planning, despite the long-standing, built-in advantages both the Catholic Church and political progressives enjoy in the U.S. People keep trying to dismiss Rand as a sociopath, a kook and an ignoramus (with some justification), yet she managed to bypass both the Magisterium's indoctrination system and the left's propaganda channels in education, academia and government by taking her view of a proper society straight to the market, and finding enthusiastic customers. She must have gotten a few things right to have pulled that off.

    August 12, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  16. rosethornne

    Olympics are over, let the Lielympics begin.

    August 12, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  17. LIB

    WOW! This guy is NOT handsome. He looks like Crazy Mitt! The Photo of President Obama in the other article looks truly like an authentic president. Don't care what anybody says, looks says it all. No matter what you think about the president or how you feel about president Obama, one thing is for sure, he and his family are top quality when it comes to who represents our country. Mitt and Ryan and their two bland plastic families. UGH! I'd rather just look at this president for another 4 years even if he does nothing than have two psychos in washington with all their insane policies.

    August 12, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  18. carly

    Definition of Ryan: right wing nut catering to tea party crazies, intent on eliminating medicare and SSI, enriching the rich and killing off the middle class.

    August 12, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  19. Fheal

    A huge portion of America has already spoken, and not even a majority of Republicans would consider handing over the key's to Paul Ryan.

    August 12, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  20. Lee

    He has already defined himself with his effort to undo the New Deal (or right wing social engineering, as Newt Gingrich said)...

    Why don't reporters ACTUALLY report about what he's up to, how Romney would pay less than 1% MAX taxes (looking at Mitt's partial 2010 return, likely the most he ever paid since he's hiding the rest), and provide some historical CONTEXT, rather than just reporting everything like it's a sports contest with "teams" and a "he said", "she said" style of LAZY lame reporting???

    August 12, 2012 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  21. Jim

    The headline should be "The race to defile Paul Ryan." The comments section is merely a start.

    August 12, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  22. tee27

    Have you notice Ryan will not spend any time in Florida, Remember he has already told the seniors they will get a coupon.

    August 12, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  23. janelle

    I am completely amazed by the utter lack of common sense and any kind of knowledge of basic math and ecomonics by all the posters who claim Ryan's plan will hurt the middle class and the poor. I wish that instead of just regurgitating the Liberal talking points, you would take a minute and think about it. The entire argument against Ryan's plan is based on the false premise that the economy is static. That just is not the case, unless you are hoping for a government controlled economy with low controlled growth. But, any time, any place in history that this model of goverment controlled economy has ever been tried, it has been a complete and utter failure, yet everytime a free market economy has been tried, it has been an overwhelming success, for everyone! When you take the hands of goverment off the throat of the private sector, you have growth, you have jobs created and opportunities. These jobs and opportunities afford everyone the ability to earn and provide for themselves at a much higher rate, therefore being better off, than when you depend on being able to tax others more in order to divy and redistribute the confiscated monies.

    August 12, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. Educator 36

    Mitt Rawmoney caved in to the tea party because they don't trust him, but he gained nothing because he had their vote anyway. Mitt Rmoney was bullied into this by the tea party and he pulled another "Palin." Paul Rand will not get one independent vote and the ticket will be a repeat of 2008–another gift to the Democrats. Why do you think Jeb Bush and Chris Christie stayed out of it? Because they are waiting for 2016...

    August 12, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  25. Elucidated1

    For Paul Ryan to act like he's a fiscal conservative . . doen't look too good. He voted for two wars, a suspect big pharma deal, the Bush tax cuts that were ALL UNFUNDED. . .and then he voted to save the US auto industry and voted for TARP. Nice fiscal credibility.

    August 12, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23