Paul Ryan, the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman with close tea party ties and a reputation for wanting to slash taxes and shrink government has been named Mitt Romney’s running mate and will become the next Vice President should the presumed Republican candidate win the election in November.
The selection of Mr Ryan, the chair of the powerful House Budget Committee, will focus attention on the significantly different paths the two parties would pursue to try to reinvigorate America’s sluggish economy.
The decision to select Mr Ryan was confirmed to media earlier on Saturday morning US time and formally introduced before a crowd on the decks of the battleship USS Wisconsin in a dockyard in the state of Virginia at 2pm.
“There are a lot of people in the other party who might disagree with Paul Ryan,” Mr Romney said. “I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t respect his character and judgment.”
Mr Ryan told the audience, "We won't duck the tough issues, we will lead.
“We won't blame others, we will take responsibility. We won't replace our founding principles, we will reapply them."
Mr Ryan will be a popular choice not only among tea party sympathisers, but establishment fiscal conservatives, some of whom had been championing his selection over the past weeks.
Last week the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard and the National Review each advocated for his candidacy.
The decision might also be popular among some in the Obama campaign, which believes his alternative budget – endorsed by his party - is radical enough to scare voters.
The Obama for America campaign manager, Jim Messina said in a statement, “In naming Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy.
“The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid. His plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors.”
Under the slogan “America’s Comeback Team,” the two men have begun a tour of key states.
Vice Presidential candidates are commonly selected to either complement the lead candidate’s skills and political attributes or to help secure key states.
At face value it is not clear that Mr Ryan’s selection is targeted at either of those goals.
His home state of Wisconsin looks almost out of Republican hands, and he is not particularly well known by voters.
A Rasumssen Reports poll shows 39 per cent of all voters had a favorable opinion of Mr Ryan, while 25 per cent offered a negative review. Another 35 per cent had no opinion at all.
As a strong Catholic he might appeal to some religious voters concerned that Mr Romney, a Mormon, does not share their Christian faith.
Some analysts have likened Mr Ryan’s selection to that of Sarah Palin by John McCain in 2008, not because they compare the two candidates, but because it is a bold choice apparently designed to reinvigorate interest in the campaign.
“Ryan, like Palin, is a bold but risky pick. He could be a terrific choice, or he could be a terrible one. It certainly is not the safe choice that someone like former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty would have been,” wrote the political analyst Stuart Rothenberg earlier today.
“Of course, the differences between Ryan and Palin are huge… while Palin was unprepared for the national spotlight, Ryan has been in it and shown himself to be thoughtful and articulate.”