NORFOLK, Va. - Republican Mitt Romney anointed Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, an ardent conservative and devoted budget cutter, as his vice presidential running mate on Saturday, and the two men immediately embarked on a tour of campaign battleground states vowing to defeat President Barack Obama and repair the long-ailing U.S. economy.
America is "a nation facing debt, doubt and despair," and a transformative change in leadership is vital, Ryan declared to a flag-waving crowd in the first moments after Romney introduced him as his partner for the fall campaign.
"Regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem... and Mitt Romney is the solution," said the seven-term lawmaker, who at 42 is a generation younger than Romney, 65. Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee, the chief architect of deeply controversial budget plans and widely viewed by Republican lawmakers as an intellectual leader within the party.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. waves to the crowd as he arrives for a rally at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., Saturday. (AP photo)
The two Republican ticket mates basked in the cheers of supporters in a made-for-television debut on a ticket hoping to make Obama's first term his last. "I did not make a mistake with this guy," Romney exulted.
Romney declared that in the campaign to come, Republicans will present economic 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."
The party establishment, rank-and-file conservatives and tea party groups all cheered the pick made by Romney, whose own record as a moderate during his term as Massachusetts governor less than a decade ago made his march to the presidential nomination an uneven one.
Obama's campaign didn't wait long to respond. It criticized the budget blueprints Ryan has authored, particularly his recommendations to fundamentally remake Medicare and cut $5.3 trillion in government spending over the coming decade.
Ryan joins a race that has been defined from the beginning by a weak economy and high unemployment, measured most recently at 8.3 percent in July.
Even so, recent national polls as well as surveys in several battleground states indicate a narrow advantage for Obama.
While Romney's pick unified Republicans, the impact in swing states such as Florida, Iowa and Pennsylvania was an open question.