WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) - His selection just hours old, Republican Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, was already tearing into President Barack Obama's "record of failure.''
Moving into a role as Romney's chief attack dog, Ryan declared Saturday that the nation under Obama's leadership is struggling through the "worst economic recovery in 70 years.''
"No one disputes President Obama inherited a difficult situation,'' Ryan said, standing at Romney's side for the first time as the Republican presidential ticket on the USS Wisconsin, a retired battleship. "And, in his first two years, with his party in complete control of Washington, he passed nearly every item on his agenda. But that didn't make things better.''
Romney selected the 42-year-old Ryan, a seven-term congressman, from a short list that included Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Ryan is the architect of a conservative and intensely controversial long-term budget plan to remake Medicare and cut trillions in federal spending.
His selection immediately thrusts those budget plans into the forefront of the presidential contest.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called Ryan the "architect of the radical Republican House budget'' proposal, and said the plan "would end Medicare as we know it.''
Less than two hours after Romney introduced Ryan as his running mate, the Obama campaign released a 90-second web video showing footage of the men appearing together. The ad calls Ryan the "mastermind behind the extreme GOP budget plan,'' and includes an audio clip of Romney saying earlier this year that it would be "marvelous'' if the Senate were to adopt the Ryan budget.
The ad ends with this tagline: "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan: Back to the failed top-down policies that crashed our economy.''
But this particular day was all about Ryan.
"We won't duck the tough issues,'' Ryan said. "We will lead.''
The congressman blamed Obama for the nation's unemployment rate that has exceeded eight percent for more than three years, the longest run since the Great Depression.
"Higher unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is a not a new normal," Ryan said. "It is a result of misguided policies.
Romney initially made his announcement to supporters via a phone app. "Mitt's Choice for VP is Paul Ryan,'' it said, and implored backers to spread the word.
One campaign official said Romney had settled on Ryan as his pick on Aug. 1, more than a week ago, and informed Beth Myers, the longtime aide who had shepherded the secretive process that led to the selection. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details.
Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee, and primary author of conservative tax -and-spending blueprints that the tea party-infused Republican majority approved over Democratic opposition in 2011 and again in 2012.
It envisions transforming Medicare into a program in which future seniors would receive government checks that they could use to purchase health insurance. Under the current program, the government directly pays doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, previously rumored to be a candidate for Ryan's job, commended Romney's decision in a statement.
"With Paul Ryan on the ticket, this is a team that understands the economic stagnation our country has been facing the last four years, and the urgency with which we need to change course," Christie said. "The Romney-Ryan team is uniquely positioned to make the tough choices necessary to confront our fiscal challenges and get results."
Ryan and other supporters said the change is needed to prevent the program from financial calamity. Critics argue that it would impose ever-increasing costs on seniors.
Other elements of the budget plan would cut projected spending for Medicaid, which provides healthcare for the poor, as well as food stamps, student loans and other social programs that Obama and Democrats have pledged to defend.
Ryan's budget plan died in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
"Our rights come from nature and from God, not government,'' Ryan said. "That's who we are. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.''
What do you think of Romney's selection? Does this help or hurt the Republican presidential candidate's chances? Let us know in the comments section below...
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