Ryan Takes Attack Dog Role

Nancy Cook
National Journal

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan stepped up to the podium Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention and assumed his position as Romney’s chief attack dog.

His speech alternated between two main pillars: tough criticism of the economic record of the Obama administration coupled with praise for his potential future boss, Mitt Romney.  

“None of us have to settle for the best this administration can offer—a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everyone is free but us,” he said to applause.

Along the way, Ryan was quick to repeatedly present the Romney-Ryan vision for a country with lower taxes, less regulation, and limited government spending. “We have a plan for a stronger middle class, with the goal of generating 12 million new jobs over the next four years,” he said.

On Obama’s economic legacy, Paul went after the country’s high unemployment rate, housing crisis, and downgraded credit rating following the debt ceiling debacle last summer.

He opted to tell the economic story of the last several years through the prism of policies he cast as incorrect ones: from the closure of a local automobile factory in his hometown in Wisconsin to the expensive stimulus package to the Obama administration’s pursuit for universal health care through the Affordable Care Act.

“It started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new,” Ryan said. “Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift."

And, through this telling, Ryan sought to cast the blame for the aftermath of the Great Recession squarely at the feet of the president. “The issue is not the economy as Barack Obama inherited, not the economy as he envisions it, but this economy as we are living it.”

The latter half of the speech was dedicated to exalting Mitt Romney—his faith, his governorship of Massachusetts, his experience running the Olympics, and his business background. The words private equity or Bain Capital never came up.

Instead, Ryan tried to characterize the Romney-Ryan ticket as one dedicated to “great moral ideas.”

During his speech, the Wisconsin delegates remained standing. Some even wore masks that bore the face of Paul Ryan. His wife, children, and mother, Betty, sat in one of the box seats, waving to the audience before the speech got going.

Ryan closed with a pledge, easy to remember for its repetitive cadence. "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 crowd loved that last line, anointing Ryan as one of the new faces of the national Republican Party.