TAMPA--Flashing a boyish grin and exuding the earnestness of a choir boy, Paul Ryan introduced himself to America Wednesday night as the sidekick to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and, more seriously, a conservative with a commitment to pragmatism and a plan to solve America's economic problems.
Ryan, a 42-year-old congressman from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, said that as Romney's vice presidential running mate he would work tirelessly to turn government to the right with an array of deep budget cuts, tax reductions, and reduced federal regulations. He condemned the health-care law enacted under President Obama as having "no place in a free country" and declared that a Romney administration would result in the "repeal of Obamacare."
Ryan also said a Romney-Ryan administration would adopt an economic plan with the goal of creating 12 million new jobs during a first term. And he said they would "protect and strengthen Medicare" through a controversial overhaul that President Obama and the Democrats have said would gut the program.
"After four years of getting the runaround, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney," Ryan said, prompting a sustained ovation. Ryan said President Obama's administration is like "a ship trying to sail on yesterday's wind..”
If the Romney-Ryan ticket wins in November, the new administration will be ready to "meet serious challenges in a serious way, without excuses and idle words," Ryan pledged to cheers from delegates at the Republican National Convention here. But his primary audience were the millions of voters watching on television, and for much of his address he spoke directly into the TV cameras.
He began by loping to the podium, waving vigorously, and announcing matter of factly, "Hello, everybody." He took a few minutes to introduce his wife, three children and mother in the audience. And he showed a sense of humor, even a willingness to tease his boss.
"We're a full generation apart, Governor Romney and I," Ryan said, "and in some ways, we're a little different. There are the songs on his iPod which I've heard on the campaign bus and on many hotel elevators."
Addressing Americans beyond the convention hall, he declared, "You are entitled to the clearest possible choice because the time for choosing is drawing near. So here is our pledge: We will not duck the tough issues. We will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others. We will take responsibility. We will not try to replace our founding principles. We will reapply our founding principles. The work ahead will be hard. These times demand the best of all of us--all of us--but we can do this."
Because he is so little known outside Washington, Ryan is largely an open slate to many voters. A Gallup poll Wednesday found that 26 percent of Americans had no opinion of Ryan or had never heard of him even though he has been Romney's vice presidential pick for nearly three weeks. Of those who knew of him, voters were evenly divided on what they thought of him, with 38 percent having a favorable impression and 36 per cent unfavorable.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook and Twitter.