(CBS News) President Obama won Wisconsin in 2008, but with Wis. Rep. Paul Ryan on the ticket, Romney hopes to take the state's 10 electoral votes.
Bill Campbell, who is head usher at the Catholic church Ryan attends when he's home in Janesville, said of the new VP pick: "Anybody that knows him or talks to him comments on how nice a guy he is."
That's a common refrain in Janesville, where Ryans have lived for five generations, and where Paul Ryan has been the congressman for 14 years.
This weekend Jan Campbell taped over her old "Ryan For Congress" sign with something new.
"I think that he's gonna be the spark plug for the Republican Party," Campbell said.
Campbell went to the same high school as Ryan. Their fathers were law partners.
"This is the patio that Paul Ryan laid when he was 16 years of age," Campbell said.
When Ryan was 16, his father suddenly died of a heart attack. Tony Huml, a friend since first grade, saw how that made Ryan more self-reliant.Complete coverage of Romney's vice presidential choice
"I know deep down that really affected him, but I think that motivates him as well. I know he wants his dad to be proud of him," Huml said.
Huml served on the student council with Ryan their junior year, the same year Ryan was prom king.
"He had that same charisma and leadership ability back then," Huml said.
In Congress, as Ryan rose in the Republican leadership, he became one of the party's self-described "Young Guns."
Democrat Rob Zerban said Ryan's budget has the wrong priorities for a district carried by President Obama four years ago.
"You know, his budget calls for turning Medicare into a voucher program, essentially killing it," Zerban said.
Zerban is challenging Ryan for his House seat this November, even as Ryan runs for vice president. It's past the deadline for Ryan to drop off the congressional ballot.
Zerban said his opponent's biggest weakness is "that he believes he is some sort of economic genius. It's a house of cards. Ask any economist worth his salt what they think of the Ryan budget, and they'll tell you it would give fiction a bad name."
On Monday, Ryan heads out on his own for the first time as the Republican vice presidential candidate. First stop is right next door in the swing state of Iowa, where he'll be emphasizing his Midwestern roots.