NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney named Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice presidential running mate for the fall campaign Saturday, turning to the architect of a conservative and intensely controversial long-term budget plan to remake Medicare and cut trillions in federal spending.
Romney made the announcement in Norfolk, Va., as the newly minted Republican ticket begins a bus tour through four battleground states in as many days.
Ryan's selection — as well as Romney's own nomination — will be ratified by delegates to the Republican National Convention that begins on Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden will be nominated for a second term at the Democratic convention the following week.
At 42, Ryan is a generation younger than the 65-year-old Romney.
His conservative credentials are highly regarded by fellow Republican House members, while numerous polls found that Romney's own were suspect among the party's core supporters during the primaries of winter and spring.
A seventh-term congressman, Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee, and primary author of conservative tax and spending blueprints that the tea party-infused Republican majority approved over vociferous Democratic opposition in 2011 and again in 2012.
It envisions transforming Medicare into a program in which future seniors would receive government checks that they could use to purchase health insurance. Under the current program, the government directly pays doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.
Ryan and other supporters say the change is needed to prevent the program from financial calamity. Critics argue it would impose ever-increasing costs on seniors.
Other elements of the budget plan would cut projected spending for Medicaid, which provides health care for the poor, as well as food stamps, student loans and other social programs that Obama and Democrats have pledged to defend.
In all, it projected spending cuts of $5.3 trillion over a decade, and cut future projected deficits substantially.
It also envisions a far reaching overhaul of the tax code of the sort Romney has promised.
In turning to Ryan, Romney bypassed other potential running mates without the Wisconsin lawmaker's following among rank-and-file conservatives, including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Republican officials said Romney had spoken with both men.
Romney and Ryan appeared unusually comfortable with each other when they campaigned together earlier in the year. The former governor eagerly shared the microphone with the younger man and they shared hamburgers at a fast food restaurant.
In making an endorsement before his state's primary last spring, Ryan said, "I picked who I think is going to be the next president of the United States — I picked Mitt Romney. ... The moment is here. The country can be saved. It is not too late to get America back on the right track. ... It is not too late to save the American idea."
Romney was the subject of an April Fools prank in which Ryan played a role. Romney showed up at a supposed campaign event where he heard Ryan calling him "the next president of the United States" — only to find the room nearly empty.
In recent days, conservative pundits have been urging Romney to choose Ryan in large part because of his authorship of a House-backed budget plan that seeks to curb overall spending on benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.
Republican National Committee finance chairman Ron Weiser of Michigan, said Friday night that Ryan's selection would help Romney win Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes in the fall. The state typically supports Democrats in presidential contests, and Obama won it handily four years ago.
Ryan has worked in Washington for much of his adult life, a contrast to Romney, who frequently emphasizes his experience in business.
The congressman worked as an aide in Congress, and also was a speechwriter for Jack Kemp, who years earlier had been one of the driving forces behind across-the-board tax cuts that were at the heart of Ronald Reagan's winning presidential campaign in 1980.
Ryan is also well-known for his fiendish physical fitness workouts.
His congressional district in southeast Wisconsin has something of a bipartisan voting record. Obama took 54 percent of the vote there in 2008, while the congressman received 64 percent in winning re-election.
Outside Ryan's home in Janesville, Wis., on Friday night, there was nothing to suggest that the residence belonged to a vice presidential candidate. An Associated Press reporter who knocked just before midnight got no answer. There was a light on in a first-floor room of the two-story brick home atop a hill.
Earlier this week, a Ryan adviser said the congressman, his wife and their three children were preparing for a weeklong Colorado vacation.
Most of Romney's staff learned of the planned announcement during a 10 p.m. EDT conference call Friday about an hour before the campaign issued a statement. The identity of Romney's pick was not disclosed during the call. The campaign had promised that first news of the selection would be delivered via a phone app.
Earlier in the day, Romney's campaign briefed reporters on the bus tour without mention of the impending vice presidential announcement.
The tour will take Romney through North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Ohio. All are battlegrounds where Obama won in 2008. They hold 75 electoral votes combined, of the 270 needed to win the election.
Ryan seen as Romney's bridge across GOP spectrum
By BRIAN BAKST and TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press
JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — Even before Wisconsin sent Paul Ryan to Congress, he was meticulously carving a path that seemed to point only upward.
As a young Capitol Hill staffer, he impressed Republican lawmakers with his hustle and intellectual curiosity. He blended quickly with an elite crop of conservative thinkers. By his 30s, he was a congressman on his way to becoming a GOP name brand with his push-the-edge budget proposals.
Ryan's climb reached new heights Saturday when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced him as his running mate.
"Mitt's Choice for VP is Paul Ryan," said a phone app Romney's team created to spread the word to supporters.
As the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan gives Romney a link to Capitol Hill leadership and underscores Romney's effort to make the election a referendum on the nation's economic course. Romney also could see his standing improve in Wisconsin, a state President Barack Obama won handily four years ago but that could be much tighter this November.
Even so, Ryan has been a double-edged sword for Romney. The congressman's endorsement of Romney came at a critical stage of the GOP primaries, giving him a boost in the Wisconsin race that effectively buried Romney's final threat. But it also meant Romney was embracing the Ryan-sponsored budget proposal that Democrats fiercely target as painful to the poor and elderly.
Still, the square-jawed congressman is viewed as a bridge between the buttoned-up GOP establishment and the riled-up tea party movement.
At 42, Ryan has spent almost half of his life in the Washington fold, the last 14 representing a southern Wisconsin district that runs from the shores of Lake Michigan through farm country south of Madison.
Ryan grew up in Janesville and still lives just down the block from where he spent his boyhood. His father, a lawyer, died of a heart attack when Ryan was a teenager. It's why Ryan is a fitness buff, leading fellow lawmakers through grueling, early-morning workouts and pushing himself through mountain climbs.
That same intensity propelled him on the political front, too.
He was first exposed to Congress as a summer intern to Sen. Robert Kasten. With an economics degree in hand, Ryan worked his way through committee staff assignments, a prominent think tank and top legislative advisory roles until opportunity arose with an open seat from his home turf. He leveraged Washington connections, local ties forged through the family construction business and the backing of anti-abortion groups en route to his surprisingly comfortable victory.
As a 28-year-old, Ryan entered Congress brimming with idealistic views about forcing government to become leaner and less intrusive, principles he thought even fellow Republicans were abandoning too readily.
"One of the first lessons I learned was, even if you come to Congress believing in limited government and fiscal prudence once you get here you are bombarded with pressure to violate your conscience and your commitment to help secure the people's natural right to equal opportunity," Ryan wrote in a 2010 book.
Critics question Ryan's own consistency. They note that he backed a costly prescription drug benefit during Republican George W. Bush's presidency that added strain to the Medicare budget, which Ryan touted at the time as "one of the most critical pieces of legislation" enacted since he joined Congress. He said in a June interview with The Associated Press that he took a "defensive" vote to ward off a more expensive Senate version. More recently, Ryan served on a bipartisan presidential debt commission but balked at its report because a tax increase was on the menu of options.
He is a disciple of and past aide to the late Rep. Jack Kemp, once a GOP vice presidential nominee himself who effusively promoted tax cuts as a central tenet for economic growth.
From the title page of his idyllic "Path to Prosperity" budget plan down to the most scrutinized fine print, Ryan is adept at framing proposals in the most pleasant terms.
Ryan's opponents charge that his call to open Medicare to more private competition is too risky even if implementation would be a ways off; he counters that the latest version was fashioned in consultation with prominent Democrats in hopes of heading off an all-out program collapse that would devastate the financial security of future retirees. Foes say his plans to scale back food stamps and housing assistance are mean-spirited; Ryan describes the moves, which would allow states to further customize their welfare programs while imposing tougher time limits and work requirements, as empowerment for the downtrodden who he argues are being lulled into lives of complacency and dependency.
It took time for Ryan's own party to get fully behind his ideas. A few years ago, when Ryan first proposed dramatic changes to entitlement programs like Medicare some in the GOP were skittish because Democrats pounced on the plans as undermining the health program accessed by millions of retirees.
Kasten said Ryan's refusal to back down paid off politically.
"If all the sudden you become the dartboard for everyone on the left and you are willing to stand there and take the heat and the darts, you develop a tremendous amount of respect even from those who are throwing the darts," Kasten said. "In the beginning it's a grudging respect. It grows into a true respect."
Ryan has let opportunities to advance come and go, most recently when he opted not to seek an open U.S. Senate seat. His young family factored into his considerations; he and wife, tax attorney Janna, have a daughter and two sons.