Ryan vows Romney will lead national turnaround
Mitt Romney's campaign hoped Rep. Paul Ryan would help knit together a party whose primary-season tensions have bubbled to the surface at times during the convention.
Tribune Washington bureau
TAMPA, Fla. — Rep. Paul Ryan introduced himself to the nation with a pledge Wednesday night to join Mitt Romney in tackling the country's most intractable problems while setting the economy on a path to create 12 million jobs over the next four years.
"Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation's economic problems. We don't have that much time," Ryan said in a speech that was rousingly received at the Republican National Convention. "But if we are serious and smart and we lead, we can do this."
In what amounted to his debut on the national stage, Ryan said: "After four years of getting the runaround, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney."
The Wisconsin congressman repeatedly vouched for the character of the man at the top of the ticket — "his whole life prepared him for this moment" — and took a hatchet to the opposition.
"They've run out of ideas," Ryan said. "Their moment came and went. ... With all their attacks, the president is just throwing away money."
"And," he added, to a roar from the crowd, "he's pretty experienced at that."
Ryan was the night's featured speaker in a session that broadened the Republican attack to President Obama's defense and foreign policies and gave voice to the frustrated Ron Paul wing of the party, with a speech by his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, that bared some of the tensions simmering just below the surface.
While Tuesday's first convention night was devoted to broad strokes, Ryan began to fill in a few details of what a Romney administration would seek to accomplish.
He called for the repeal of Obamacare and set a job-creation goal that would far surpass the number created under Obama, though not, independent economists have said, particularly ambitious in the context of a healthy economy.
Ryan also spoke to one of Romney's biggest political liabilities: a perception of pliability suggested by his changed position on abortion and other issues. "Here is our pledge," Ryan said, as his running mate watched on TV from a hotel suite. "We will not duck the tough issues. We will lead."
The speech served as the first extended look for most of the country at Ryan, 42, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a hero to many conservatives.
He accused Obama and Democrats of raiding Medicare to pay for the president's health-care plan — failing to note he has supported the same reductions aimed at medical providers — and vowed "a Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom's generation, for my generation and for my kids and yours."
For all the talk of direct action, the speech was short of detail on how a Romney administration would achieve its goals. There were also some conspicuous omissions.
While Ryan chided Obama for ignoring the advice of a bipartisan debt-reduction commission, he failed to acknowledge opposing its recommendations. He also blamed Obama for the closure of a General Motors plant in his hometown, Janesville, Wis., when the move was announced under President George W. Bush.
Ryan's call for drastic budget slashing as a way to shrink the federal government carries considerable risk, as does his proposal to turn Medicare from a guaranteed benefit into a voucher system.
Ryan and Romney may be rewarded for addressing the problem of runaway entitlement spending, which politicians in both parties consider unsustainable. But spending cuts have often proved more appealing as a promise than in practice.
That has been especially true of Medicare, a highly popular program with senior citizens, who are a crucial part of the electorate in Florida and other swing states.
Preceding Ryan were several more familiar faces, who reprised a longstanding assertion: Democrats are too weak to be entrusted with the country's security.
Obama wins high marks from voters on defense and foreign policy. He ended the war in Iraq, moved to wind down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and, in one of the administration's highest-profile achievements, oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden and the decapitation of much of al-Qaida's leadership.
That did not stop Republicans from criticizing Obama's leadership.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the party's 2008 nominee, attacked Obama's approach to Israel, Afghanistan, Russia and Syria and accused Obama of missing "a historic opportunity" to throw American support behind a popular uprising that could have ousted the hostile Islamic government in Iran.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mixed attacks on Obama with a strong defense of the interventionist foreign policy championed by Bush, her ex-boss. "There is a weariness" with the burdens of world leadership, Rice said. "I know that it feels as if we have carried these burdens long enough."
But, she warned, if the United States does not lead, other hostile nations will. "We do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead," she said, "and you cannot lead from behind."
Back at the convention, Romney got no help from Rand Paul.
The Romney team hoped the senator's speech would help coax followers of his father, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, to back the GOP standard-bearer, a rival in the primary season. But Rand Paul mentioned Romney only once and, contradicting him, suggested defense cuts should be in any budget-cutting plan.
"Not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well spent," Paul said to cheers from some in the crowd.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.