MANASSAS, Va. — His voice hoarse and his every move shadowed by Secret Service agents, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan wound up the first day of the rest of his political life with a fiery speech in front of several thousand GOP supporters who came to see the new star of the Republican Party.
The GOP's 'Young Gun' reached the second rung of his party's national ladder Saturday when he was selected to be Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate.
'His heart is still Janesville, Wisconsin, small-town America,' presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said of Ryan.
The 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman quickly brought a new generation of leadership to the GOP's national ticket and helped set a new tone in a tense national race against President Barack Obama.
'Hope and change has now become attack and blame,' Ryan said of the president's campaign strategy.
Quickly assuming an aggressive role in front of a flag-waving crowd assembled beneath a pavilion in the heart of this historic city, Ryan said: 'President Obama is our president and he has put all his policies in place and they're just not working.'
Ryan ridiculed what he called the 'crony capitalism' and 'corporate welfare' he said was practiced by the Obama administration and added that the last few years have brought 'debt, doubt, despair and decline.'
'We don't have to put up with this,' Ryan said.
Ryan's wife Janna, 10-year-old daughter Liza, and sons Charles, 8, and Sam, 7, appeared comfortable on the campaign trail.
And Ryan, even while wearing a blue sport coat on a sultry summer day, was at ease. As he left the stage, he gave a wave to hundreds of supporters and received raucous cheers in return.
The crowds that showed up in Manassas, and two earlier campaign stops in Virginia, appeared thrilled to be part of the vice presidential rollout in a political battleground. Romney-Ryan placards appeared for the first time.
'Romney was very courageous to make this choice,' said Susan Roesch, a homemaker from McLean, Va. 'Romney is not scared to do the right thing for the country.'
'It helps Romney clearly define the differences with Obama,' said Roesch's husband, Jim, an electrical engineer. 'He stands for less government, less spending. Obama is for more taxing and more spending.'
In a sign that GOP strategists believe that Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes could be in play, Romney and Ryan are scheduled to appear in a rally Sunday at 6:05 p.m. at the Waukesha County Expo, 1000 Northview Road, in Waukesha.
According to the Marquette University Law School poll released on Wednesday, Obama leads Romney 50 percent to 45 percent among Wisconsin voters. Ronald Reagan was the last Republican to win a presidential race in Wisconsin in 1984.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who called for Ryan to be on the national ticket, was delighted with the selection of a friend.
'He's the smartest person I know in politics,' Walker said during a news conference at Romney campaign headquarters in Wauwatosa. 'Yet he's one of the most humble.'
Reince Priebus, the Wisconsinite and chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement, 'Across the country, Americans are hurting, but America's Comeback Team will offer us a new direction and a brighter future,'
The list of potential GOP vice presidential contenders appeared to narrow in recent weeks to Ryan, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. According to The Wall Street Journal, Romney made his decision Aug. 1.
But Romney didn't announce the pick until early Saturday, first on a phone app and then during a campaign event in Norfolk, Va., where the candidates appeared on a stage set against the backdrop of the U.S.S. Wisconsin.
Romney said Ryan's 'leadership begins with character and values. Paul is a man of tremendous character shaped in large part of his early life.'
He lauded Ryan 'as an intellectual leader of the Republican Party. He understands the fiscal challenges facing America.'
'Paul and I are beginning a journey that will take us to every corner of America,' said Romney, who at 65, is a generation older than his running mate.
Romney mistakenly introduced Ryan as the next president of the United States. Obama did the same thing four years ago when introducing Joe Biden.
'Every so often I make a mistake. I did not make a mistake with this guy,' Romney said, as he corrected himself.
During his speech in Norfolk, Ryan reflected on his 14-year career in Congress.
'There, I have focused on solving the problems that confront our country, and turning ideas into action; and action into solutions. I am committed, in mind and heart, to putting that experience to work in a Romney administration. This is a crucial moment in the life of our nation; and it is absolutely vital that we select the right man to lead America back to prosperity and greatness.
'That man is standing next to me. His name is Mitt Romney. And he will be the next president of the United States.'
Speaking of his home state and hometown, Ryan said he represented a part of America that includes inner cities, rural areas, suburbs and factory towns.
'Over the years, I have seen and heard from a lot from families, from those running small businesses, and from people who are in need. But what I have heard lately troubles me the most. There is something different in their voice and in their words. What I hear from them are diminished dreams, lowered expectations, uncertain futures.
'I hear some people say that this is just 'the new normal.' High unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is not a new normal. It's the result of misguided policies. And next January, our economy will begin a comeback with the Romney plan for a stronger middle class that will lead to more jobs and more take home pay for working Americans.'
Ryan's budget proposals have been called both bold and controversial. He is the author of an aggressive plan, largely endorsed by Romney, to cut deficits and remake entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
The Obama team wasted little time in attacking Ryan's record.
In a statement, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said: 'The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid. His plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors. As a member of Congress, Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy. Now the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same, catastrophic mistakes.'
But Ryan is viewed favorably by small-government, tea-party conservatives who called on Romney to select the congressman and campaign on big themes.
Fired by the energy of the crowd Saturday, Romney told supporters here, 'We're going to stand for America. And we're going to win.'
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