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The Romney Ticket, Now With Ryan Added


For more on Mr. Romney's choice of a running mate, we're joined in the studio by NPR's Washington editor Ron Elving and NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

Now, we just heard from congressman Chris Van Hollan of Maryland, who's a Democrat. He told us that the choice that Mr. Romney made tells independent voters to, quote, "take a hike." How do you think that this choice affects independents and undecided voters? You want to start, Ron?

RON ELVING, BYLINE: I believe it would depend on which independent voters you're talking about because many people who describe themselves as independents really lean in one direction or another, ideologically, even if they have distaste for both of the parties as formal organizations. So, I believe there will be a number of people who call themselves who will thrilled by this choice because they think that Romney is a little wishy-washy, a little too moderate, a little too liberal; the kinds of people who would lean toward libertarianism, for example, will probably find this a great choice.

I think Chris Van Hollan, the congressman, was talking about those independents that lean more Democratic and would be more inclined to be fearful about the effects on themselves; of some of the budget cuts that are envisioned in the Ryan budget, and maybe resentful of some of the tax cuts in the Ryan budget for corporations and for the wealthy.

WERTHEIMER: Now, last year, the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, called the Ryan budget plan right-wing social engineering. He backtracked from that position, but of course - and he had difficulty selling it as a potential Republican presidential candidate. But do you think that's a preview of the kind of difficulty the Romney team might have, inside and outside the party? What do you think, Don?

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: It is not that the Ryan plan has not been discussed and debated in this town and in, you know, congressional races and in various, you know, pockets around the country, but this plan is now going to get a full, big-time, kind of bare-knuckled airing. I mean, it's going to be debated fully and turned upside down and inside out.

WERTHEIMER: Scrubbed, as they say.

GONYEA: Scrubbed, as they say. Yes. So, you know, and we don't know how it will hold up to that kind of scrutiny and in some places it will fare quite well and in some places not so much.

WERTHEIMER: Well, one of the things, of course, that will all have to appreciate about Mr. Ryan's budget, is that if really do mean that you want to make some big changes in the way this country treats debt and deficit and treats its entitlement programs, if you want to change the direction, the kinds of things, the choices that Mr. Ryan has made for his budget, are some of the choices that you would pretty much have to make. It would be hard to see how you could wring trillions of dollars out of the budget any other way.

ELVING: That is true. He is exempting defense by and large from cuts. So, that's one option that he is not taking. He is also restricting revenue. He is saying, we don't need more revenue; we need more spending cuts. And therefore, we're going to cap revenue at a certain percentage of the entire economy, and we're also going to say that if the budget does not reach actual balance for many, many years, that's all right. If we're setting the right priorities and reducing the deficit - he wants to get the deficit down to 3 percent of the gross national product or gross domestic product - within a few years. But he doesn't actually try to balance the budget outright until the year 2040.

GONYEA: And he does say we need to look at the long-term solvency of things like Social Security and how we pay for Medicaid and Medicare. But what he does not do, and this is very similar to what we've seen from Governor Romney during the campaign, is he does not itemize in any way at all the kinds of things that will be cut, that have to go.

Now, Governor Romney's response to that has been, if I start laying them out, you'll just pick me apart, and then we'll kind of get bogged down in that. So, that's a losing proposition. But the Ryan plan has not done it either.

WERTHEIMER: I thought this was sort of a, I don't know, a curious phrase. Mr. Ryan, although he talked about the economy, he talked about the sort of very high view of patriotism and, see, he spoke about people receiving their rights from nature and God - not from government. Is this going to have appeal? I thought it was odd that he led the nature, frankly.

ELVING: There is an appeal here, I think, being made to traditional values in the country, both religious values and also historic values - the kind of language that harks back to the Declaration of Independence, for example, or the Constitution. We also heard Mitt Romney in introducing Paul Ryan make reference to the better angels of our natures, which is, of course, a famous Abraham Lincoln line from the second inaugural speech in 1865.

So, this is an appeal to the America that we all came to know and love growing up in this country, in civics class. There was great deal of lofty reference in the Paul Ryan speech, and really not a whole of detail, not a lot of specific social issues, not a lot of national security talk. Not the usual roster of issues you would expect from a candidate, especially a Republican candidate, but a great deal of lofty reference to the principles of America.

WERTHEIMER: From a very attractive young member of Congress from Wisconsin. I mean, I think that on many levels this is a choice that is going to work for Mr. Romney, and I want to thank you all very much. NPR's Washington editor Ron Elving and NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.