Ryan’s First Week: More Attacks, Less Wonkery

National Journal Staff

RICHMOND, Va. – As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan is known for policy wonkiness and knowledge of minute details of the U.S. budget. During his first week on the national campaign trail, however, he largely devoted himself to full-throated attacks on President Obama.

Part of Ryan’s approach is grounded in tradition: The historical role of the vice presidential candidate is less to offer specific policy proposals, than to ensure that voters don’t trust those offered by the other side. Vice President Joe Biden is playing that part for the administration, tearing apart Ryan and Mitt Romney just as much as Ryan lambastes Obama (case in point: Biden's infamous “chains” comment earlier this week).

But part of it also is by design. Ryan’s aides see a value in having him spend most of his time focusing on Obama’s record.

Ryan’s stump speech already has taken on a fairly consistent structure in the dozen or so speeches he has delivered in the past week. He reviews Romney’s retooled, five-point plan to help the middle class, criticizes Obama for running a negative campaign, and discusses an issue or two designed by Romney’s Boston headquarters to drive the day.

Monday was welfare in Iowa; Tuesday was energy in Denver and the foreclosure crisis in Nevada; Wednesday was student loans and Medicare. Each of the topics has been given brief treatment that is heavily weighted toward criticism of Obama. 

Yet Ryan does appear to acknowledge that he’ll need to be more than an attack dog in the months ahead. As he said in Nevada, “You see, we're not going to go to people in this country and say, ‘The other guy is so bad, therefore vote for me by default.’” Read more

—Rebecca Kaplan


Attacks Grow Shrill Over Biden’s Back in Chains Remarks NEW!
[National Journal, 8/19/12] The campaigns used Sunday’s talk shows for another round of thrust and parry over Biden’s controversial “back in chains” remarks. One of the more biting attacks: Rudy Giuliani called Biden “a laugh line on Jay Leno, not a vice president.” Still, you won't be hearing any kind of apology from the Obama camp for the VP's comments. 

Cutter Responds to GOP Criticism of Super PAC Spot NEW!
[National Journal, 8/19/12] Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter said on Sunday that she didn’t know the details behind the controversial Democratic super PAC advertisement that essentially blamed Romney for the death of a woman by cancer. 

Saying Goodbye to the Tie
[Boston Globe, 8/19/12] Ryan may not succeed in ending Medicare as we know it, but he might be the death knell for the necktie. The Globe’s Tom Keane takes a look at the necktie’s disappearing act. 

‘We Can’t Wait’ Offensive Continues
[National Journal, 8/19/12] Obama‘s team hasn't given up on its “We Can’t Wait” offensive, established after the debt-ceiling fight to grow jobs without Congressional help. One program would establish a manufacturing institute in recession-crippled Youngstown, Ohio; the other lets states spend more than $470 million in previously allocated money on transportation infrastructure. 

Ryan Makes An Emotional Medicare Push in Florida
[National Journal, 8/18/12] Rep. Paul Ryan’s mother, 78-year-old Betty Douglas, appeared on stage with him as he made a highly emotional appeal for Medicare reforms. He told Floridians how both his mother and grandmother relied on Medicare, and slammed Obama for his "raid" of the popular entitlement program.

Editorial: Truth and Lies About Medicare
[New York Times, 8/18/12] The Times’s editorial board offers a scathing critique of the attacks by Mitt Romney and Ryan on Obama over Medicare, saying that both have “twisted themselves into knots to distance themselves from previous positions, so that voters can no longer believe anything they say.”

Dems Slam Ryan Over Social Security Privatization
[Associated Press, 8/19/12] Ryan’s 2010 “Road Map for America’s Future” would have allowed younger workers to divert more than one-third of their Social Security taxes into personal accounts. Although Romney has not embraced the proposal, Democrats hope to capitalize on the issue.

Ryan’s Fiscal Conservative Credentials Get More Scrutiny
[National Journal, 8/19/12] News organizations examining Ryan’s background have highlighted issues that could complicate the newly-minted VP pick’s efforts to drive home his reputation as a fiscal conservative. For example: past support for stimulating the economy after the recession, and support for big spending during the Bush era. 

Ryan and Romney Don’t See Eye to Eye on Auto Bailout NEW!
[Reuters, 8/19/12] Ryan broke with his party to vote in Congress for a $15 billion federal bailout for GM and Chrysler as they teetered on the edge of insolvency. Supporters say Ryan’s actions reveal a practical streak – as well as a willingness to take an unpopular stand -- that will bode well for him if the Romney-Ryan ticket gets elected. 

Ryan Fought to Bail Out GM Plan in Wisconsin District
[Los Angeles Times, 8/18/12] In 2008, Ryan was closely involved in trying to save a failing General Motors plant in his hometown, a position that may clashes with his image today as a staunch defender of fiscal austerity.

Opinion: Romney and Ryan Build a Bridge to the 20th Century
[Baltimore Sun, 8/19/12] The Sun’s David Horsey writes that it is clear the GOP wants a return to the good old days of McKinley and Taft – a time when businessmen were free of government meddling and all citizens were expected to fend for themselves.

Big Fundraising Effort for Romney
[Boston Globe, 8/19/12] Starting this weekend with a clambake on Martha’s Vineyard and following up with multiple fundraising events, Romney had what his staff called a blockbuster $7 million fundraising run that stretched from the Bay State to New York. 

The Courtship Before Ryan Elevated Romney
[New York Times, 8/18/12] Romney and Ryan’s relationship began in 2007, when what was supposed to be a 15-minute meeting turned into an hour as the two men traded policy theories. As Romney emerged as the GOP presidential nominee, he began to rely on more frequent consultations with Ryan.

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