Romney introduces Paul Ryan as running mate

Courtesy of Zap2It

Mitt Romney on Saturday announced U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate for the White House-- a bold and risky move that energized both conservatives and their opponents.

Ryan is a rising Republican star and the party's leader on fiscal and budget issues. He is the architect of a Republican spending plan that would overhaul many entitlement programs, making him a favorite of conservatives, whose support for Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has been shaky.

But the Romney camp was also quick to put some distance between Ryan's initial budget blueprint and his own.

"Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget," the Romney campaign said, "and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance."

His running mate choice draws some clear lines with Romney's Democratic opponents over the size of the cuts in Ryan's plan and his prior votes on taxes, which they say favor the wealthiest Americans -- a point of contention in an election in which both sides consider themselves champions of the middle class.

"Congressman Paul Ryan is an outstanding choice as our country's next vice president, and today's announcement demonstrates Governor Romney's commitment to returning fiscal sanity back to Washington, DC.," said former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who mounted the strongest conservative challenge to Romney's campaign in the Republican primaries.

"I have long supported Paul Ryan's fiscal and entitlement reforms to return our country back on a path of fiscal health."

Ryan, 42, is considered a policy wonk and conservative Catholic likely to energize the GOP base and sharpen the campaign's focus on government spending and the economy.

That could boost Romney's appeal among middle-of-the-road Catholic voters in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, though Ryan offers little in the way of foreign policy experience.

The House Budget Committee chairman was chosen ahead of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. A campaign aide told CNN that Romney decided on Ryan on August 1. GOP sources said Friday that the latter three had all been told that they wouldn't be getting the nod.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden contacted Ryan, welcoming him to the race, saying that he "looked forward to engaging him on the clear choice voters face this November."

And Democrats were quick to make Ryan's fiscal policies a target.

Analysis: A bold but risky choice for running mate

"Congressman Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are a match made in millionaires' heaven, but they'll be a nightmare for seniors who've earned their Medicare benefits," said New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, "For the last 18 months, we've said Republicans will have to defend the indefensible -- their vote to end Medicare. Now with Congressman Ryan on the ticket, House Republicans face the one thing they hoped to avoid -- a national debate on their budget that puts millionaires first and Medicare and the middle class last."

The announcement comes at the end of a week in which Democrats continued relentless attacks on Romney over his refusal to reveal more of his tax records and which saw three polls in 24 hours showing Obama with a growing lead over his Republican challenger.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday showed a big jump in those who had an unfavorable opinion of the GOP candidate.

While some analysts saw Romney's choice as risky, others thought Romney had to go big.

"With Mitt Romney losing ground to President Obama in the polls, I don't see the selection of Paul Ryan as 'risky,' I see the choice as bold and necessary," Republican consultant Ford O'Connell told CNN.

Timeline: Paul Ryan through the years

CNN senior political analyst David Gergen says the Ryan pick is, "an opportunity for the Romney campaign to go on the offense."