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Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Morning Spent Trying to Define Ryan


WASHINGTON - The Obama campaign wasted no time on Sunday in trying to paint Mitt Romney's newly announced running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, as an extreme politician who would destroy the Medicare program and deprive women of abortion rights.

“Congressman Ryan is a right-wing ideologue, and that is reflected in the positions that he's taken,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign.

“He is quite extreme - good, good person, you know, genial person - but his views are quite harsh,” Mr. Axelrod said on CNN's “State of the Union.”

Offering a critique that is expected to be central to the Obama team's argument, Mr. Axelrod said that Mr. Ryan's proposal to remake Medicare would allow private insurers to peel away the healthiest seniors, leaving the federal program covering the oldest and the sickest, sending costs soaring.

“Medicare itself will be in a death spiral,” Mr. Axelrod said, on ABC's “This Week.”

Republicans countered, saying that Medicare could not survive in its current form and that Mr. Romney, with his extensive business background, and Mr. Ryan, as an idea-generating chairman of the House Budget Committee, were the people to usher in needed change.

“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan agree and share a view that we need to make hard choices, and we need to save entitlement programs for future generations,” Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, said on CNN's “State of the Union.”

Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who had been seen as a top prospect as Mr. Romney's running mate, agreed. “I think the American people respect people who have real solutions to big problems,” including the need for Medicare reform.

Unlike President Obama, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, and Mr. Ryan, “are actually willing to lead; they are actually willing to put meat on the bones.” Mr. Pawlenty said on ABC's “This Week.”

Mr. Pawlenty, who has been one of Mr. Romney's most loyal defenders since bowing out of the race for the presidential nomination, said that he was not disappointed at being passed over for the No. 2 spot.

“It's a great ticket, it's a terrific pick by Governor Romney,” Mr. Pawlenty said, adding that Mr. Ryan would bring energy and “an adult approach to solving the nation's problems.”

The fight over Medicare could prove crucial in battleground states like Florida that have large populations of seniors, and many Democrats said they were delighted to wage that fight.

But the president's party is also seizing on another Ryan position tha t it says said bolsters Democrats' efforts to portray the Republican ticket as unfriendly to women.

“He believes that we should ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest,” Mr. Axelrod said on ABC, referring to Mr. Ryan. “He is outside the mainstream.”

Mr. Ryan, a Roman Catholic, attended Mass at a church in North Carolina early on Sunday before joining Mr. Romney at an event in the town of Mooresville.