Ryan Wraps Up Whirlwind First Week as VP Pick

by
staff
Paul Ryan returned to the state where he was launched into the political stratosphere as Mitt Romney's running mate, telling Virginia: "It's not too late to get this right."

The anointment of Ryan as Romney's number two lit a spark under the Republican campaign

Paul Ryan returned to the state where he was launched into the political stratosphere as Mitt Romney's running mate, telling Virginia: "It's not too late to get this right."

The anointment of Ryan, the wonkish House Budget Committee chairman, as Romney's number two lit a spark under the Republican campaign for the White House after attacks on Romney's business record began to show bruises.

And the Romney campaign said that since the seven-term Wisconsin congressman was unveiled as the Republican vice presidential candidate less than a week ago, it had raised $10 million.

Ryan, 42, has been scampering across the country, spreading the Romney-Ryan message to voters in battleground states from North Carolina to Ohio, from Iowa to Colorado.

"We've got to get this debt under control. We've got to cut spending," Ryan told about 2,500 people who filled a gymnasium at Deep Run High School in Glen Allen, a Richmond suburb.

"We have a big choice to make," he said about the November 6 election in which Romney is aiming to oust President Barack Obama from the White House, "and it's not too late to get this right."

On Saturday, Ryan heads to the biggest battleground of all, Florida, where he will be under pressure in a state with older voters worried about their secure retirement to explain his plan to cut costs by overhauling entitlements like Medicare.

Ryan's plan envisions parts of the government health care program for seniors converted to a voucher system that allows users to purchase insurance on the private market, where insurers can compete with the existing system.

He insists such competition would lower costs, and that the plan would cut billions of dollars in fraud and waste, while Democrats argue the plan would not keep up with rising expenses, leaving millions of seniors out of pocket.

"We want this debate on Medicare," Ryan told cheering supporters in Springfield, Virginia.

Senior groups have said they will protest Ryan's event in Florida, scheduled at The Villages private retirement community near Orlando, in one of the most tightly watched regions of the state.

Ryan has spent recent days getting acclimated to the media spotlight, amid a relentless focus on the man Romney has chosen to be his number two.

Late Friday, at the tail end of the weekly news cycle, Ryan released his tax returns for the latest two years, showing he and his wife Janna paid a 15.9 percent tax rate in 2010 and a 20 percent rate last year.

The policy of releasing two years of tax data dovetails with Romney, whose refusal to divulge pre-2010 returns has dogged his campaign. Democrats say Romney's refusal to provide more records only raises questions about the candidate's business and financial history.

On Thursday, Romney said he paid a tax rate of at least 13 percent in each of the last 10 years; Obama's campaign demanded he prove it.

Romney and Ryan, who parted ways to cover more ground at campaign events, will join forces again on Monday, attending a town hall-style meeting in New Hampshire.

Ryan visited several states without Romney at his side as they prepare to head to the party's national convention in late August.

"I was surprised that they separated so quickly," said vice presidency expert Joel Goldstein, a professor at St. Louis University School of Law.

In Virginia, Ryan hammered the Obama administration as a bloated bureaucracy and pointed to US unemployment remaining above eight percent for the past 42 months, as he called on voters to "reject 'Obamanomics.'"

Ryan, a number-crunching congressional insider who has spent nearly half his life in Washington, has positioned himself as a fiscal problem solver who can also turn on his Midwestern charm to connect with everyday voters.

He spoke of previous visits to Virginia where he enjoyed "lots of hunting and fishing -- that's what I like to do."

With 81 days before the election, Ryan will be racing around the 10 or so battleground states where the election will be decided, eager to introduce himself to voters who may not know much about him or his budget plan.

"He's a new face on the national scene," Goldstein said. "The question will be whether he is viewed as an able and attractive national figure or an ideologue associated with attacks on popular programs."