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The Strategy Behind Choosing Ryan


Now, we're going to go back to the other big high profile contest this morning in politics. This morning's announcement that Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney's pick to be his vice president. Standing on stage by the battleship USS Wisconsin, Romney praised Ryan's Catholic upbringing, his youth and his focus on reducing deficits and debt.

MITT ROMNEY: Paul Ryan has become an intellectual leader of the Republican Party. He understands the fiscal challenges facing America - our exploding deficits and crushing debt, and the fiscal catastrophe that awaits us if we don't change course.

WERTHEIMER: As congressman Ryan came to the stage, he said President Obama had a record of failure on the economy and the budget. For more on this decision and what it means for this year's presidential election, we're joined in the studio by NPR's Don Gonyea and Ron Elving. Welcome.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Linda.


WERTHEIMER: Now, Don, if the traditional role of the vice presidential candidate is to be the attack dog, did we get any sense that Mr. Ryan will be good at it.

GONYEA: We saw him easing into that role today.


GONYEA: He did accuse the president of caring more about re-election than finding solutions to the nation's problems. But they more along the lines of this right here. Give a listen.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: Let me say a word about the man Mitt Romney is about to replace.


RYAN: No one disputes that President Obama inherited a difficult situation, and in his first two year, with his party in complete control of Washington, he passed nearly every item on his agenda. But that didn't make things better. In fact, we find ourselves in a nation facing debt, doubt and despair. This is the worse economic recovery in 70 years. Unemployment has been above 8 percent for more than three years, the longest run since the Great Depression. Families are hurting.

WERTHEIMER: Now, Don, Ryan did not talk explicitly about his budget plan, but he did mention tough choices.

GONYEA: Absolutely, and again, let's just listen to him once again. He portrays this as a choice between two visions, but also one side that is willing to actually take a hard look at some things the nation faces.

RYAN: The commitment Mitt Romney and I make to you is this. We won't duck the tough issues, we will lead.


RYAN: We won't blame others, we will take responsibility.


RYAN: And we won't replace our founding principles, we will reapply them.


WERTHEIMER: So, Ron, what do you think? Is this likely the base excited?

ELVING: Yes. And possibly in both parties. Certainly in the Republican Party because Paul Ryan is an intellectual leader, which is to say an ideological leader in the Republican Party, and for those who found that lacking in Mitt Romney, who didn't feel the passion for conservatism in Mitt Romney, they will find it in all likelihood in Paul Ryan. He's also younger, he has a kind of personal vibrancy. And that will energize the base. It could do the same for the Democrats because they will see in him the kind of threat to the programs that they're devoted to.

And the tax structure - the tax fairness, as they would put it - that they're dedicated to, under threat because of Ryan and his budget.

WERTHEIMER: So, do you think that this will give - is there a bump in here somewhere for Mr. Romney? Do you think, Don?

GONYEA: History tells us there will likely be a bump. But we've got about a, what, a week and a half before the Republican National Convention, so they'll be plenty of scrutiny in there, as well.

ELVING: I would be astonished if he does not rise at least in the Fox poll, which had him down 9 points, which nobody really thought was realistic. He will get back those 9 points and probably come back to even at least in the Fox poll and probably most others, as well.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks to both of you. NPR's Don Gonyea and Ron Elving will be following this story throughout the day on air and on npr.org. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.