NORFOLK, Va. — In the shadow of a military battleship, Mitt Romney formally named Paul Ryan as his running mate Saturday, saying that the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman was the “intellectual leader” of the Republican Party with the experience to tackle the fiscal crises facing the nation and the temperament to be effective.
“Paul and I are beginning on a journey that will take us to every corner of America,” Romney told thousands of supporters gathered on a muggy morning here, shortly before introducing Ryan and embracing him. “We are offering a positive governing agenda that will lead to economic growth, to widespread and shared prosperity, and that will improve the lives of our fellow citizens. Our plan to strengthen the middle class will get America back to work and get our country back on track.”
The men, dubbed “America’s Comeback Team” by the campaign, appeared together at the USS Wisconsin, a retired battleship whose name was a nod to the state in which Ryan was born and which he has represented in Congress for seven terms. Romney appeared in a light blue tie and no jacket, while Ryan wore a dark jacket and no tie.
Ryan, whose wife, Janna, and their three children accompanied him, said his Washington experience would complement Romney’s business and gubernatorial background.
“I am surrounded by the people I love … and I have been asked by Gov. Romney to serve the country I love,” he said, noting that he still lives in his birthplace of Janesville, Wisc. “For the last 14 years, I have proudly represented Wisconsin 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 heart and mind, 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.”
Both men mentioned that Ryan’s father had passed away while Ryan was in high school, an event that shaped him.
“That forced him to grow up earlier than any young man should. But Paul did, with the help of his devoted mother, his brothers and sister, and a supportive community. And as he did, he internalized the virtues and hard-working ethic of the Midwest,” Romney said. “Paul Ryan works in Washington, but his beliefs remain firmly rooted in Janesville, Wisc. He is a person of great steadiness, whose integrity is unquestioned and whose word is good.”
A vice presidential candidate typically serves as the chief tormentor of the opposing team, a skill that Ryan previewed during his roll-out.
After ticking off a list of statistics about the economic difficulties facing Americans, he said that although President Obama inherited a bad economy, he failed to fix it.
“Whatever the explanations, whatever the excuses, this is a record of failure,” Ryan said. “President Obama and too many like him in Washington have refused to make difficult decisions because they are more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation. We might have been able to get away with that before, but not now. We’re in a different and dangerous moment. We’re running out of time, and we can’t afford four more years of this.”
Despite their characterization as a team running on specifics, neither Romney nor Ryan offered concrete plans, nor did they mention Ryan’s controversial proposal to reform Medicare, which would offer the option of a voucher-like system for the next generation of senior citizens.
Speculation about Romney’s vice presidential pick had been frenzied in recent days, and centered on Ryan, Ohio Sen. Ron Portman and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Late Friday night, word leaked out that Romney had picked Ryan, who islittle known nationally. The campaign made it official Saturday morning when they alerted supporters via a smartphone app.
Few details about how Romney picked Ryan have been revealed. Romney made the decision Aug. 1, just after returning from his overseas trip, and called Ryan soon after.