LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Today - and in fact, we think in just a few minutes, Mitt Romney will make it official. Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan will be his choice for vice president. Romney is expected to make the announcement at an event in Norfolk, Virginia, within sight of the Battleship Wisconsin.
Paul Ryan endorsed Mitt Romney during the Republican primaries. And just before the Wisconsin primary, Ryan called Romney the right leader for the moment.
REP. PAUL RYAN: I'm excited, I'm encouraged, I'm enthused; because in this man we have a person of conviction; we have a man with the right kind of experience. We have the right kind of leader we're going to need to get this country right, and to get this country back on track. And I want to ask you, fellow Wisconsinites, to join me in welcoming who I hope becomes the next president of the United States - Gov. Mitt Romney.
WERTHEIMER: That was an event in Wisconsin, which is Paul Ryan's home state. The event in Norfolk, Virginia will launch a bus tour through swing states. The two men will be traveling in a blue and white bus proclaiming more jobs, more take home pay.
For more on Congressman Ryan and what this choice means for the campaign, we're joined by NPR's Washington editor Ron Elving and NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea. Good morning to the two of you.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.
WERTHEIMER: Now we think that what is going to happen is the two men will appear on a platform at the visitor's center right beside the big Battleship Wisconsin. And as soon as they begin to speak, we will turn the microphones over to them. But for now, Ron, this is, you know, if you were saying make a choice that was safe or sizzling as Morning Edition has been saying, this was a choice that has sizzled.
ELVING: Yes, it has. And I think the setting that we're looking at is really quite symbolic. You have a new dawn, if you will. As the sun comes up over Norfolk, Virginia, a new dawn for the Romney candidacy. A new dawn perhaps for the Republican Party in this particular election year.
You also have in the background a battleship, which I think is aggressive and speaks to the nature of this choice, speaks to the nature of the tough mentality they want to project with respect to many issues. It also speaks to the name of the battleship, which is the U.S.S. Wisconsin, the home state of Paul Ryan. That's a nice little serendipity for them.
And it's also a World War II battleship, and I think there's going to be some harking back to the spirit of World War II, the spirit of the greatest generation to whom this ticket will try very hard to appeal.
WERTHEIMER: Now Don, you've covered quite a few presidential campaigns, and Ron, why don't you chime in here too, vice presidents - in my experience covering campaigns, which goes back, way back, I would say that I don't remember a case where a vice president made a big difference in the success of a president. Sometimes the vice presidents can hurt you.
GONYEA: Well, that's why the first rule - very first rule is first, do no harm, right. I mean, you've picked somebody who complements and who may help and who in theory will help you be more competitive in this state or that. And theoretically Paul Ryan does that for you in Wisconsin.
WERTHEIMER: He brings in the swing state of Wisconsin.
GONYEA: Which the Romney campaign hopes to make a battleground state. You have to go back many, many, many elections before you get the one where Wisconsin went red.
GONYEA: 1988 they voted for - no excuse me, they voted for Dukakis in 1988, so the last one was Ronald Reagan in 1984 where Wisconsin went Republican.
GONYEA: Every one since then has been Democrat.
ELVING: But does it help there's always talk on this day about how it will help, but ultimately you're correct. It's still the guy at the top of the ticket.
ELVING: But Ryan is there to...
WERTHEIMER: We're voting for president in the United States of America. We don't vote for vice.
ELVING: The question is how well can Ryan help Mitt Romney make his case and define his case and define the race.
WERTHEIMER: Now there was some talk at one point that perhaps Mr. Romney might look for somebody who had a different ethnic background from his own to sort of - to counter some of the appeal of the Obama-Biden ticket. What do you - are there any consequences to having two white men on the ticket?
GONYEA: We're kind of used to that in American politics, so I mean ultimately you can't say that that is a negative. I think they really looked seriously at least at the potential for having a Marco Rubio, the new Tea Party favorite senator from Florida on the ticket. But ultimately I think in case after case they just decided there might be, you know, too much risk here. It might be a little too bold of a pick. Perhaps Rubio is too young.
So we get someone who is very young and who, you know, brings with him some risk in that Ryan plan that his name is attached to. But he was on the, you know, he was on the list that had been narrowed down. And while it is maybe the riskiest of those who are on the final risk, it...
WERTHEIMER: ...is also the most memorable of all those that were on the final list it seems to me.
WERTHEIMER: He is a person of strong positions and he's very smart. When he stands up and talks people listen to him even, I think, if they don't agree with him at all. What do you think?
Neither of these candidates have been pushing the kind of social issues that, for example, Sarah Palin brought to John McCain. John McCain had voted at various times in - he had sort of shied away from abortion. He had shied away from other of the conservative social issues. She was very strong on those issues. Neither of these candidates have been spending a lot of time on them.
ELVING: No, but they're both known as personally highly conservative, Mitt Romney as a Mormon, and Paul Ryan is a Catholic, and a very traditional Catholic. And they're going to be a strong pro-life ticket. They're going to be against gay marriage. They're going to be on point for all of the conservative social issues. They may not be the big emphasis for either of these two conservatives who have been much more focused on fiscal issues.
But, you know, you look back at some of the real energy that has infused some of the past Republican campaigns and it has largely been on the social side. It has not been as successful when it was strictly a fiscal pitch. So I think we will hear, if not the Sarah Palin kind of emphasis on social issues, we will hear some measure of that and we will try to see Republicans organizing around those issues.
WERTHEIMER: And look for the Republicans who care about those issues very much to be comforted by the choice, for example, of a Catholic vice president in Paul Ryan.
What are we looking at? What is happening in Norfolk? I can see Mrs. Romney and I think that is Mrs. Ryan standing next to her. Mrs. Ryan, who is - I'll confess a conflict here - I've known her since she was a bay. I went to college with her mother and she's a lovely, lovely woman.
ELVING: Janna is her name, Janna Ryan. She has three children. They live in Janesville, Wisconsin. And we have not seen much of them. Paul Ryan is a more private politician than many. He hasn't been parading his family around the country as many politicians have been in recent months.
And we're going to be introduced to a new Republican family, and they are, of course, much younger than Mitt Romney's children. In fact, Paul Ryan himself is about the same age as one of Mitt Romney's sons and sometimes has been described as his sixth son.
WERTHEIMER: We've been watching the - we've been watching flags being passed out around the - through the crowd on the podium and we're just - we're seeing the very first announcement I think that we are about to have an event here. Bob McDonnell, who is the governor of Virginia, has taken to the podium. Do we want to listen to Mr. McDonnell, to Governor McDonnell?
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL: ...having us here today. You know, this is the mother of presidents, the birthplace of democracy, where just 405 years ago a couple miles away from here the greatest country on Earth were given birth at Cape Henry, the United States of America.
MCDONNELL: And what a treat to be in Hampton Roads, the home of more veterans than just about any place in the world.
MCDONNELL: The home of the greatest navy base in the world.
MCDONNELL: All of you that are veterans, raise your hands so we can give you a round of applause and say thank you for what you've done.
MCDONNELL: 'Cause you understand like the people that serve...
WERTHEIMER: That is Governor McDonnell of Virginia. He is - he was briefly mentioned by the great mentioner as a possible vice president candidate. And he is a very conservative Republican who - and joins with the Republicans in Wisconsin in his efforts to reduce the size of state government, cut spending, many - I think many of the same kinds of things that Mr. Ryan stands for. I assume they are friends.
ELVING: Yes, and I think there was a little bit of a tremor last night when the announcement came that this was going to happen in Virginia and this morning rather than next Tuesday in Ohio where a lot of people were a lot of people were expecting the choice to be Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio. Instead they were going to do it this morning in Virginia, and for a moment that seemed to be a stage setting for this man to be the recipient of the offer. But it was not to be.
GONYEA: He's also someone who has run well in the independent areas with independent voters, at least in his election.
MCDONNELL: ...creating jobs in Virginia, but boy, we've got some headwinds in Washington. Won't it be easier creating jobs in Virginia if we've got a president Mitt Romney.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)
MCDONNELL: Well, I'm delighted to be here with my wife, the first lady, and my sons, my daughters, how about that veteran Jeanine McDonnell singing the national anthem. She did OK?
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)
MCDONNELL: Well, I am so delighted to have our next president here today. You know, his opponent has been here a little bit. It seems like every time he comes here he makes a little news. He was (unintelligible) , he was here last week and he said, and I want you to help me with this. He was here last week and he said, if I don't win Virginia, I won't be president again. I want you to help me keep that promise.
MCDONNELL: But you know, a couple of months ago he came to Roanoke, Virginia and he said something I still can't believe. I'm still looking at that transcript to see if it was right. He said, if you are successful in a business, you didn't build that, somebody else made that happen.
(SOUNDBITE OF DISAPPROVAL)
MCDONNELL: Well, ladies and gentlemen, I think that shows why we need a new president because that statement tells you everything you need to know. This is a president that does not understand the American free enterprise system and the great American dream, and we need a change.
MCDONNELL: Now let's suppose that you were interviewing for a job or you were interviewing to get rehired or your contract extended, that's what the president is asking us to do, and you go in and you've got resume and you're trying to tell the boss the American people, or the 8.2 million people of Virginia that you want to get rehired. Well, let's look at this resume of the president.
Well, he says, how about jobs? You know, we've had an 8 percent unemployment rate now for 42 months and we've got the lowest number of entrepreneurs starting new businesses for 30 years. Not so good, Mr. President.
When it comes to energy, his record of making it harder for our great coal industry to stab new permits, make it harder for our people in the great new natural gas industry to engage in fracking, making it harder to dispose of nuclear materials so we can't build new nuclear power plants. Refusing to allow Virginians to use their God-given natural resources off the coast of Virginia to drill for oil and natural gas.
(SOUNDBITE OF DISAPPROVAL)
MCDONNELL: When it comes to the debt, let's look at that record.
WERTHEIMER: We're listening to Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia who is taking this opportunity to make a political speech. And pretty soon we'll hear from Mitt Romney who's the Republican presidential candidate, or he will be at the end of the Republican convention, who is going to announce his choice for vice president, and that will be Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
We're watching this great event which is taking place at Norfolk, Virginia. We'll rejoin and listen to Governor McDonnell.
GOV. ROBERT MCDONNELL: ...this election. And this election is about really one thing and that is which candidate's got the vision and the ideas to get the greatest country on earth out of debt and back to work. You know, one the hand, we've got this Obama vision of more entitlements and more guarantees and more taxes and more government as the way to prosperity. And Mr. President, with all due respect, that failed America now for the last three and a half years.
But then we've got the GOP the great opportunity party and its vision and its candidates. We've got that incredible Reagan, Romney enthusiastic visions that recognizes the American dream and if you work hard and if you dream big and you pursue opportunity and use your God-given talents, you can still be anything you want to be in this great land of freedom, America.
A hundred years ago, poor farm boy from Mayo County, Ireland left on a ship and landed in Boston, Massachusetts. That was my grandfather. He worked as a laborer in a glue factory and as a tanner. He never thought that a hundred years later, that his grandson would end up with the same job of Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, being governor of Virginia. But that's the United States of America, the land of dreams and opportunity.
So being an average middle class kid from Fairfax County, I'm incredibly thrilled to be governor of Virginia and that's the heart and soul of this campaign for Mitt Romney is doing things and putting policies in place that support and expand and offer hope and opportunity for our middle class families in America.
Governor Romney's put forth a visionary five-point plan to be able to get people back to work, promoting entrepreneurship and small business because you did build it and if you do, you'll provide jobs and opportunity for other people. To get our country out of debt by balancing a budget...
WERTHEIMER: If you're just joining us, we have been listening to the run-up to the event where Republican nominee Mitt Romney will announce his choice to be his running mate. It's Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. And we'll presumably hear from both of those gentlemen in a little while, but first, we're listening to the governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell.
MCDONNELL: ...comprehensive plan to use all of our red, white and blue God-given natural resources to promote American energy independence. That's going to help the middle class create jobs and opportunity for a long time. So ladies and gentlemen, you know the issues and you know the ideas of Mitt Romney. But I want to say above all of those policies, what really matters is heart and character and vision and passion.
The scriptures say, for lack of vision, the people perish. But just the opposite is true. With vision, the people prosper. One of the loneliest places anywhere you can find is the inside of that Oval Office. When the cabinet members leave and the advisors are gone, the president of the United States has got to have faith and know what they believe and make the right decisions for the people of the United States.
That's what you get with Mitt Romney. He's a man of faith, a man of principle, a man who's been successful as governor, successful on the private sector, successful running the Olympics. He's a great family man, five kids, 18 grandkids. He's been incredibly generous to people all over the country and all over the world. He's got an amazing passion and vision for the country.
He's got a deep and abiding love for America, what it stands for and the great American dream. So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the next president of the United States, Governor Mitt Romney.
WERTHEIMER: And here comes the presumptive Republican candidate, Governor Mitt Romney who is stepping up to the podium where he will stand in front of the Battleship Wisconsin. He's on the ship. It looks as though he's going to come down the gangway and speak to the crowd that's gathered and introduce them to the new vice presidential choice, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. I must say, I thought Mr. Romney was going stay at the top of the stairs and sort of bless the crowd as candidates usually do.
But he's a man on a mission. He's in a hurry. He's going right straight to the platform.
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you. Wow. What a welcome. Thank you so much, Virginia. Hey, guys. Thank you so much. What a great governor you have. What a terrific man and a terrific leader. Way to go.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHANTING MITT)
ROMNEY: Thank you so very much. It's great to be back in Virginia and here in Norfolk. Your city's beauty is matched only by its proud heritage as a defender of freedom. Thank you, Virginia, thank you, Norfolk. Today, we take another step forward in helping restore the promise of America as we move forward in this campaign and on to help lead the nation to better days.
It's an honor to announce my running mate and the next vice president of the United States, Paul Ryan.
ROMNEY: His leadership begins with character and values. Paul is a man of tremendous character shaped, in large part, by his early life. Paul's father died when he was in high school. That forced him to grow 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.
Paul Ryan works in Washington, but his beliefs remain firmly rooted in Janesville, Wisconsin. He's a person of great steadiness whose integrity is unquestioned and his word is good. Paul's upbringing is obvious in how he's conducted himself throughout his life, including his leadership in Washington. In a city that's far too often characterized by pettiness and personal attacks, Paul Ryan is a shining exception.
He doesn't demonize his opponents. He understands that honorable people can have honest differences and he appeals to the better angels of our nature. There are a lot of people in the other party who might disagree with Paul Ryan. I don't know of anyone who doesn't respect his character and judgment.
WERTHEIMER: You're listening to Governor Mitt Romney, who's just about to - was explaining to us why he has chosen Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to be his running mate.
ROMNEY: ...which would advance the ideals of freedom and justice and to increase opportunity and prosperity to people of every class and faith, every age and ethnic background. A faithful Catholic, Paul believes in the worth and dignity of every human life.
ROMNEY: With energy and vision, Paul Ryan has become in intellectual leader of the Republican Party. He understands the fiscal challenges facing America, our exploding deficits and crushing debt and the fiscal catastrophe that awaits us if we don't change course. He combines a profound sense of responsibility for what we owe the next generation with an unbounded optimism in America's future and understanding of all the wonderful things the American people can do.
Paul also combines firm principles with a practical concern for getting things done. He's never been content to simply curse the darkness. He'd rather light candles. And throughout his legislative career, he's shown the ability to work with members of both parties to find common ground on some of the hardest issues confronting the American people. So Paul and I are beginning on a journey that will take us to every corner of America.
We're 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.
WERTHEIMER: You're listening to Gov. Mitt Romney, who is about to introduce congressman Paul Ryan, Romney's choice to be his vice presidential running mate.
ROMNEY: ...get our country back on track. We offer solutions that are bold, specific and achievable. We offer our commitment to help create 12 million new jobs, and to bring better take-home pay to middle-class families.
ROMNEY: ROMNEY: To strengthen the middle class, we'll provide our workers, and our children, with the skills to succeed. We'll cut the deficit; have trade that works for America, and champions small business. And finally, we'll unleash our energy resource to - resources to achieve North American energy independence.
ROMNEY: We will help care for those who can't care for themselves, and we will return work to welfare.
ROMNEY: As poverty has risen to historic and tragic levels - with nearly one out of six Americans now having fallen into poverty - we will act to bring these families into the middle class. Unlike the current president, who's cut Medicare funding by $700 billion...
ROMNEY:...we will preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security, and keep them there for future generations.
ROMNEY: And under the current president, health care's only become more expensive. We're going to reform health care so that more Americans have access to affordable health care. And we'll get that started by repealing and replacing Obamacare.
ROMNEY: At a time when the president's campaign is taking American politics to new lows...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Obama looting!
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yeah!
ROMNEY: ...we're going to do something very differently. We're going to talk about aspirations and American ideals, of bring - about bringing people together to serve, to solve the urgent problems facing our nation. And when that message wins in America, it will be a victory for every American. Today is a good day for America, and there are better days ahead. Join me...
ROMNEY: Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan.
(CHEERS, APPLAUSE, MUSIC)
WERTHEIMER: Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is now coming down from the deck of the Wisconsin to the platform where he's just been introduced by Governor Mitt Romney. Ryan is 42 years old. He's been a congressman from his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin for a number of terms. Very experienced, the chairmen of the Senate - of the House budget committee and he has his own budget which lays out some very conservative views about what ought to happen next in the United States.
Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney have moved to the front of the platform to wave to the crowd. There's quite a large crowd here. And of course, as you might imagine, there are a lot of those little American flags that people like to wave at ceremonies of this kind. So we have the two men who will be leading the Republican ticket together at last. Now we know who the vice presidential candidate will be. And it looks as though we're going to get to hear from Congressman Paul Ryan.
RYAN: Wow. Hey. And right in front of the USS Wisconsin, huh? Man.
ROMNEY: Every now and then, I'm known to make a mistake. I did not make a mistake with this guy, but I can tell you this, he's going to be the next vice president of the United States.
RYAN: Governor Romney, Ann, thank you.
RYAN: I am deeply honored and excited to join you as your running mate.
RYAN: I want to tell you about Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney is a leader with the skills, the background and the character that our country needs at this crucial time in its history.
RYAN: Following four years of failed leadership, the hopes of our country - which have inspired the world - our growing dim. They need someone to revive them. Governor Romney is the man for this moment.
RYAN: And he and I share one commitment. We will restore the greatness of this country.
RYAN: I want you to meet my family. This is my wife Janna...
RYAN: ...my daughter Liza and our sons Charlie and Sam.
RYAN: I'm surrounded by the people I love. I love you, too.
RYAN: And I've been asked by Governor Romney to serve the country that I love.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
RYAN: Janesville, Wisconsin is where I was born and raised and I never really left it. It's our home now. For the last 14 years, I have proudly represented Wisconsin in Congress.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
RYAN: 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.
RYAN: 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.
RYAN: That man is standing right next to me. His name is Mitt Romney. And he will be the next president of the United States of America.
RYAN: My dad died when I was young. He was a good and decent man. There are a few things he would say that have just always stuck with me. He'd say, Son, you're either part of the problem or part of the solution. Well, regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem and Mitt Romney is the solution.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
RYAN: The other thing my dad would always say is that every generation of Americans leaves their children better off. That's the American legacy. Sadly, for the first time in our history, we are on a path which will undo that legacy. That is why we need new leadership to become part of the solution - new leadership to restore prosperity, economic growth, and jobs.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
RYAN: It is our duty to save the American Dream for our children, and theirs.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
RYAN: I believe there is no person in America who is better prepared - because of his experience, because of the principles he holds and because of his achievements and excellence in so many different arenas - to lead America at this point in our history.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
RYAN: Let me say a word about the man Mitt Romney is about to replace.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND BOOS)
RYAN: No one disputes that President Obama inherited a difficult situation. 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. In fact, we find ourselves in a nation facing debt, doubt, and despair.
This is the worst economic recovery in 70 years. Unemployment has been above 8 percent for more than three years, the longest run since the Great Depression. Families are hurting. We have the largest deficits and the biggest federal government since World War II. Nearly one out of six Americans are in poverty - the worst rate in a generation. Moms and dads are struggling to make ends meet. Household incomes have dropped by more than $4,000 over the past four years.
(SOUNDBITE OF BOOS)
RYAN: Whatever the explanations, whatever the excuses, this is a record of failure.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
RYAN: President Obama, and too many like him in Washington, have refused to make difficult decisions, because they're more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation.
RYAN: We might've 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.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: No.
RYAN: Politicians from both parties have made empty promises which will soon become broken promises - with painful consequences - if we fail to act now.
RYAN: I represent 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 a lot of those who are running small businesses and from people who are in need. But what I've heard lately that's what troubles me the most. There's something different in their voice, 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.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: No.
RYAN: High unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is not a new normal.
RYAN: It is 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: America is on the wrong track, but Mitt Romney and I will take the right steps, in the right time, to get us back on the right track.
RYAN: I believe that my record of getting things done in Congress will be a very helpful complement to Governor Romney's executive and private sector success outside of Washington.
RYAN: I've worked closely with Republicans as well as Democrats to advance an agenda of economic growth, fiscal discipline, and job creation. I'm proud to stand with a man who understands what it takes to foster job creation in our economy, someone who knows from experience, that if you have a small business you did build that.
RYAN: At Bain Capital, he launched new businesses and he turned around failing ones - companies like Staples, Bright Horizons, Sports Authority, just to name a few. Mitt Romney created jobs and he showed he knows how a free economy works.
At the Olympics, he took a failing enterprise and made it the pride of our entire nation.
RYAN: As governor of Massachusetts, he worked with Democrats and Republicans to balance budgets without increasing taxes, lower unemployment, increase income and improve people's lives.
RYAN: In all of these things, Mitt Romney has shown himself to be a man of achievement, excellence and integrity.
RYAN: Janna and I tell Liza, Charlie, and Sam that America is a place where, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.
RYAN: We look at one another's success with pride, not resentment, because we know...
RYAN: ...we know that as more Americans work hard, take risks, succeed, more people will prosper, our communities will benefit, and individual lives will be uplifted and improved.
RYAN: America is more than just a place, though. America is an idea.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Yeah.
RYAN: It's the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come from nature and God, not from government.
RYAN: That's right. That's who we are. That's how we built this country. That's who we are.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.
RYAN: That's what made us great. That's our founding. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Yeah.
RYAN: And this idea was founded on the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise, self-determination and government by consent of the governed.
RYAN: This idea, this idea is under assault. So we have a critical decision to make as a nation. We are on an unsustainable path that is robbing America of our freedom and security. It doesn't have to be this way. The commitment Mitt Romney and I make to you is this: We won't duck the tough issues, we will lead!
RYAN: We won't blame others. We will take responsibility.
RYAN: And we won't replace our founding principles, we will reapply them. That's what we will do.
RYAN: We will honor you, our fellow citizens, by giving you the right and opportunity to make the choice.
RYAN: What kind of country do we want to have? What kind of people do we want to be? We can turn this thing around.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
RYAN: We can. We can turn this thing around. Real solutions can be delivered. But it will take leadership and the courage to tell you the truth.
RYAN: Mitt Romney is this kind of leader. I'm ecstatic for what lies ahead. I'm thrilled to be a part of America's comeback team and together we will unite America and get this done. Thank you. Thank you very much.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)
RYAN: Thanks. Thank you.
WERTHEIMER: That is the presumed Republican nominee for vice president, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, promising leadership and a campaign against debt, doubt, and despair. Mr. Ryan and his running mate, Mr. Romney, appeared at an even in Norfolk, Virginia as they launch a bus tour through the swing states.
They spoke standing in front of the decommissioned World War II battleship the U.S.S. Wisconsin, no coincidence there. For more on the pick and what it means we're going to listen to some voices from around the country as well as our Washington editor Ron Elving, NPR's national and political correspondent Don Gonyea. Ron, this was a sendoff event. How does it set the stage?
ELVING: We did not hear Paul Ryan talk about the Paul Ryan Budget. We did not hear him talk too much specifically about fiscal policy, tax cuts, Medicare, any of those things. This was, however, very much the House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan talking about the principles on which he basis his politics: liberty, freedom, free enterprise, many reiterations of those words and that concept.
WERTHEIMER: Don, the Romney ticket has struggled in the last few months with some bad news, particularly in the last week or so, with some very discouraging poll numbers. Do you think that choosing Ryan hits the reset button?
GONYEA: It certainly allows them to start a different conversation. And a conversation about what they plan on doing. I mean, Paul Ryan has always said that it's not enough to criticize; one also has to propose alternatives. His Ryan plan is out there. As Ron said, he did not mention it here.
Governor Romney did not mention it here. It will be the basis for much discussion going forward, and I'll tell you, the Obama campaign has already sent out the press releases highlighting the Ryan plan and basically saying, well, I'll read you just the first line of it.
Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors will somehow deliver a stronger economy.
So there is the argument, going forward at least.
WERTHEIMER: There is the argument and there are the themes. Thank you very much. NPR's national and political correspondent Don Gonyea, NPR's Washington editor Ron Elving. If you're just joining us, we're following the big story in politics this hour. Mitt Romney has chosen his running mate and it is Paul Ryan, congressman from Wisconsin.
Now, let's get some reaction from people in other parts of the country. Bob Vander Plaats is the president and CEO of the Iowa-based organization called The Family Leader which focuses on conservative social issues. He joins us by phone now from Des Moines, Iowa, where the Family Leadership Summit is currently taking place. Mr. Vander Plaats, welcome.
BOB VANDER PLAATS: Well, thrilled to be with you.
WERTHEIMER: So your concern revolves around bringing conservatives to social issues. Are you happy with this choice? Do you think this is going to work for the people that you are attempting to serve?
PLAATS: Well, first of all, we're concerned about all conservatives but I do believe Congressman Ryan is a solid choice for Governor Romney to put as his VP pick. I think, as you heard Congressman Ryan say, that our freedoms and our rights come from God, not from government. We base our law on the law of nature and the law of nature's God.
As your earlier guest said, you know, he's laying out the principles for which he bases his policy decisions and we really believe that we need a candidate that's going to be bold. Congressman Ryan has shown a willingness to be bold. Because this country faces some real issues that we need to come to grips with and I think what Romney's sending a message here is that they're willing to address those tough issues.
WERTHEIMER: Now you originally endorsed former senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania. Has the choice that Mr. Romney has made, does he sort of shore up your confidence that Mr. Romney is the right kind of candidate for you?
PLAATS: I think he has. As a matter of fact, we've often said that Governor Romney is going to show us what kind of leader he's going to be by who he surrounds himself with. And so I always said it'd be great if he appointed somebody like Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum - someone who's capable to be president.
I think Paul Ryan fits that bill, someone who's rock solid on their values. I believe Paul Ryan fits that bill. And someone who's got a bold and courageous spirit to address the issues of the day with some real solutions, and I think Paul Ryan demonstrates that as well.
So I think it's a solid pick. I'm a little bit surprised. I didn't think Ryan was in the running anymore but I think it's a solid pick.
WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much, Mr. Vander Plaats.
PLAATS: I appreciate being on your show.
WERTHEIMER: Bob Vander Plaats is the president and CEO of the Iowa-based organization which is called the Family Leader, focusing on conservative and social issues. And his group is holding a meeting on this big, and I suppose very entertaining, day for the - good exciting time for politicians to be meeting.
We're joined also now by Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen. He is from our area here in Washington. He represents Maryland's eighth district. But he is also the ranking member of the House Budget Committee. Paul Ryan is the chairman of that committee. Mr. Van Hollen, welcome.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Morning. It's great to be with you.
WERTHEIMER: Now, I wonder if you could tell me what you think of this choice. You've worked closely with Paul Ryan.
HOLLEN: Well, I like Paul personally and I've enjoyed our very sharp but always civil debates in the Budget Committee, and those debates are about the important choices that we face and in making this choice, Mitt Romney has sent a very clear signal that he supports an economic agenda that helps people like Mitt Romney and the rest of the country and at the expense of the rest of the country.
Because what the Republican budget does, and it was designed by Congressman Ryan, is it provides another round of big tax breaks for folks at the very, very top at the expense of everybody else. At the expense of seniors on Medicare, at the expense of very important investments in our kids' education and in our economic future, and at the expense of middle income taxpayers.
So this clearly sharpens the debate in a way that I think will reveal very clearly that Mitt Romney wants an America that helps people like him but at the expense of everybody else.
WERTHEIMER: So did you hear anything in the speeches this morning that sort of set off some bells for you about things that you would imagine you and other Democrats will be talking about?
HOLLEN: Well, sure, because what we have is really just a recycled version of the failed trickle down economic policies we saw during the Bush administration. Again, the underlying idea here is that somehow providing another round of windfall tax breaks to very wealthy people will trickle down and lift everybody else up.
We know the end of that movie. It didn't work. We tried it. At the end of the eight years of the Bush administration millions of Americans had lost their jobs. The economy tanked and I don't think anybody really wants to go back to that failed agenda.
You can dress it up, you can soup it up, you can call it something else, but that strategy failed as opposed to a strategy of trying to invest in the middle class and have an economy built from the middle out, not this failed idea of the top down economy.
WERTHEIMER: Now, I wonder. The Obama campaign must've been breathing a bit easier in the last few days because there was a pop in the polls in the president. And even some very conservative polls like Fox News polls, for example, were suggesting that the president was in better shape than had been previously thought.
Do you think this pops Mr. Romney back up and puts him back up into a completely equal contention?
HOLLEN: No, I don't. And I'm sure that the president, the Obama campaign, are taking nothing for granted despite the obvious good news in the polls. Politically, the choice of Paul Ryan is throwing a bone to the right wing idealities in the Republican Party. It's essentially telling independent voters to take a hike. So what this choice tells us is that Mitt Romney is working very hard to shore up excitement among the most right wing parts of the Republican Party.
WERTHEIMER: Mr. Van Hollen?
WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much for this. We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.
HOLLEN: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
WERTHEIMER: Chris Van Hollen represents Maryland's eighth district. He's a Democrat, a member of the Democratic leadership. The top political news today - Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, has announced his choice for vice president.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
ROMNEY: It's an honor to announce my running mate, and the next vice president of the United States, Paul Ryan.
WERTHEIMER: Paul Ryan is a congressman from Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee. Mr. Romney made the announcement standing in front of a decommissioned battleship, the U.S.S. Wisconsin. In his first public appearance as a candidate for vice president, Ryan said President Obama had a record of failure on the economy and he said a Romney administration would return America to its founding principles.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
RYAN: America is an idea. It's the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come from nature and God, not from government.
WERTHEIMER: Ryan is known controversially to some for his comprehensive conservative budget plan. He said the campaign would not, quote, "duck the tough issues."
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
RYAN: We can turn this thing around. We can. We can turn this thing around. Real solutions can be delivered but it will take leadership and the courage to tell you the truth.
WERTHEIMER: That was Paul Ryan, speaking earlier this hour. He is a congressman from Wisconsin, from Janesville, Wisconsin, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and now the Republican candidate for vice president of the United States. Romney and Ryan will be campaigning throughout the swing states over the next few days. We'll continue to follow this story today on air and online at npr.org. This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.