Mitt Romney's high-risk gamble ignites race for the White House

Paul Ryan has a plan for the US economy, but many Republicans fear it goes too far, writes Stephen Foley

Democrat politicians fanned out across the airwaves yesterday to dub Mitt Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, the most extreme Republican on a presidential ticket for generations.

The risk that Mr Romney took in appointing the young Wisconsin congressman appeared to crystallise almost immediately, as the US presidential debate shifted from the economic malaise to the long-term future of the social safety net. The race was on – 24 hours after Mr Romney unveiled his choice in the shadow of the warship USS Wisconsin – to define the new candidate.

"It is a pick that is meant to thrill the most strident voices in the Republican Party, but it's one that should trouble everybody else, the middle class, seniors, students," said David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's campaign strategist.

Unlike most running mates, historically, Mr Ryan comes with a fully fleshed-out plan for running the federal government over the next 10 years – the so-called "Paul Ryan budget" that passed the Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives last year, but did not make it past the Democrat-controlled Senate or White House.

Among other big cuts to government spending, the budget promises to turn Medicare, the popular government-run health service, into a system of vouchers for private care.

Mr Romney and Mr Ryan campaigned together yesterday in the battleground states of North Carolina and Wisconsin, the new vice-presidential nominee's home state. "This is Day Two on our comeback tour to get America strong again, to rebuild the promise of America," Mr Romney said.

To the Romney campaign, Mr Ryan is a smart and affable family man with a penchant for thinking bold thoughts. But the Ryan budget was immediately being featured in Democrat materials emailed to the formidable list of supporters who signed on to Mr Obama's 2008 campaign, and it topped the list of talking points handed out to party elders. All the efforts circled back to one word: "extreme".

Paul Ryan is "the mastermind behind the extreme GOP budget plan", a new Democratic campaign video says. "Governor Romney has embraced many of the positions that Congressman Ryan espouses, extreme as they sound," Mr Axelrod said on CNN's State of the Nation.

Campaigners unaffiliated with the Democrats also weighed in, underscoring the risk that Mr Romney could alienate crucial independent voters. The Ryan budget has long been a controversial document – even former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called it "right-wing social engineering" – and it also roused Catholic nuns into opposition. Network, a Catholic social justice lobby group, which organised a six-state "nuns on the bus" tour last month, damned Mr Ryan's proposals as "immoral".

Sister Simone Campbell, Network's executive director, said: "His budget deliberately harms people at the economic margins. It is also unpatriotic because it says that we are an individualistic, selfish nation."

Mr Romney's listless campaign for President appeared to have been faltering in the battleground states where the White House will be won or lost in less than three months' time, as President Obama shifted the terms of the debate away from the economy. Instead, attention had turned to Mr Romney's record in the private sector, as head of the private equity group Bain Capital, and his refusal to detail his tax history.

The addition of Mr Ryan to the ticket gives the campaign the opportunity to cast Republican proposals for tax cuts for the rich as more than a giveaway to Mr Romney's friends, but as part of a coherent long-term economic reform agenda.

Picking Mr Ryan gives the Romney candidacy an intellectual definition that it had previously lacked. It has electrified the grassroots of the Republican party and many of its elite thinkers, but it also risks saddling Mr Romney with a budget plan that includes potentially unpopular elements that he has never fully endorsed.

Keeping it secret: How he got the job

Forget the political drama of Paul Ryan's pick as Mitt Romney's running-mate; the lead-up to the announcement had all the elements of a crime drama. To keep the decision secret from the press, Mr Ryan was at one point told to sneak through woods behind his house to a car and attend a meeting with Romney aides. Earlier in the week, he wore sunglasses and a baseball cap to drive from Wisconsin to a Chicago airport to catch a flight to meet Mr Romney in New England, where he was offered the job.

Suggested Topics
News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Y3 Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Key Stage 2 specia...

KS2 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day + tax deductable expenses: Randstad Education Leicester: At...

Finance Officer

£80 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Finance Officer with Educat...

Primary Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor