In naming Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, as his vice presidential nominee, Mitt Romney ensured that the 2012 election will be mainly about how the country ultimately deals with its massive budget deficits.
Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, made his running mate announcement Saturday morning in Norfolk, VA. The choice of Ryan completes the ticket that will face off against President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in November.
Ryan, a seven-term congressman and chairman of the House Budget Committee, in March released a controversial budget proposal – the so-called Ryan Budget Plan — that now figures to become a central part of the presidential campaign.
Ryan's Budget Plan would deal harshly with federal spending by making major changes to programs like Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.
Republicans who support the plan say the austerity is needed to get the country's huge budget deficits under control. Democrats counter that the Ryan Budget Plan balances the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it.
So it's not too surprising that both parties are thrilled with Ryan as the VP nominee.
"I have long supported Paul Ryan's fiscal and entitlement reforms to return our country back on a path of fiscal health," said former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a Republican presidential candidate who dropped out of the race in April. "At a time when our country is at an economic crossroads, Congressman Ryan's depth of knowledge on how to tackle these challenges is unparalleled."
Certainly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, based his reaction to the Ryan VP pick on the Ryan Budget Plan.
"The months ahead will provide Americans with a clear choice between the Romney-Ryan plan to gut Social Security and Medicare and Democrats' balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines smart spending cuts with asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share," Reid said. "Democrats in the Senate look forward to engaging in that debate."
While the campaign rhetoric will remain heated, many observers would rather the fight be over budget issues, which are vitally important to the nation, rather than petty personal attacks.
With the federal debt now over $15 trillion and rising each day, the country actually may be ready for an election about serious budgetary issues.
VP Nominee Ryan Sets Stage for Fierce Rhetoric
Ryan and President Obama already have sparred on several occasions. Those fiery exchanges should give us a preview of what to expect during the campaign.
"Disguised as a deficit-reduction plan, it's really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country," the president said of Ryan's Budget Plan in an April speech. "It's nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism."
At a 2010 White House summit on Obamacare, Ryan let loose this salvo: "We all talk to our constituents," Ryan said directly to President Obama, who sat just yards away. "And if you think they want a government takeover of health care, I would respectfully submit you're not listening to them."
Late last year, Ryan accused President Obama of "sowing social unrest and class resentment" with his proposed surtax on millionaires.
The president responded a few months later with another barb aimed at the Ryan Budget Plan.
He said Ryan's proposal attacks the deficit by "gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that's built to last. That is not class warfare. That is not class envy. That is math."
It will be up to the American electorate to sort through all the tough talk and mischaracterizations of the other side's positions. But the Paul Ryan VP pick has put an exclamation point on what's really being decided in this election.
"The underlying cause of the joy on both sides is the same, and it also happens to be the reason why the country should love the selection too," writes John Heileman for New York Magazine. "It raises the stakes and starkly clarifies the choice that voters will face in November – in one fell and dramatic swoop transforming a campaign that was teetering on the edge of being about nothing (of substance, that is) into a contest about Very Big Things indeed."
Vice presidential nominee Ryan kicks off his addition to the campaign this week by meeting with voters in Colorado.
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