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After Romney VP choice, Obama campaign keeps focus on Ryan budget

August 11, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Mitt Romney arrives to announce Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate during a campaign rally at the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk, Va.
Mitt Romney arrives to announce Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential… (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )

For Team Obama, Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan to be his running mate magnifies what had been one of the president's primary policy cases against the Republican ticket: a budget blueprint he once described as "thinly veiled Social Darwinism."

President Obama's first major speech illustrating the contrast with Romney, in April to the Associated Press Luncheon in Washington, marked the start of an effort to link the former Massachusetts governor to the House Republican budget plan that Ryan authored. 

That plan, Obama said then, was "so far to the right it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal," and he noted that Romney had embraced it, saying he would introduce a similar plan if elected.

Photos: Paul Ryan announced as Romney's running mate

"He said that he’s 'very supportive' of this new budget, and he even called it 'marvelous' -- which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget," Obama joked at the time.

By choosing Ryan, Romney did more to tie himself to that plan than the Obama campaign could ever have done on its own. And within moments of Romney making it official, the Chicago-based operation pounced.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement that Romney had tapped in Ryan someone "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 so-called Ryan plan, Messina said, would make deep cuts in education and imperil Medicare to pay for additional tax cuts for millionaires.

"As a member of Congress, Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy. Now the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same, catastrophic mistakes," Messina said.

The campaign has also launched a new website dubbing Romney-Ryan "The Go Back Team," a twist on the Republican campaign's branding of them as "America's Comeback Team."

A video featured on the website calls Ryan "the mastermind behind the extreme GOP budget plan." It includes audio of Romney's description of the plan as "marvelous."

Before the pick was made, Democrats acknowledged that Ryan, unlike some of the other Republicans Romney was considering for the No. 2 slot, would energize the party's base, one that has only reluctantly embraced Romney as their standard bearer.

PHOTOS: Paul Ryan's past

But, one party aide predicted, Ryan would "give us Florida," a state that he added was trending Romney at the moment. Obama could win the election without carrying Florida, but Romney could not, according to the aide, speaking anonymously to candidly assess the party's strategy.

On Obama's last trip to Florida weeks ago, he zeroed in on Medicare, warning that Romney "plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program."

"Florida, that is wrong," he said at a retirement community in West Palm Beach. "It’s wrong to ask you to pay for Medicare so that people who are doing well right now get even more."

Vice President Joe Biden did the same in one of his "framing speeches" in the earlier stages of the campaign last March, in which he specifically discussed Ryan's plan.

He called the Wisconsin congressman "a smart, decent guy." But his plan lowers "the standard of living for those on Medicare rather than asking the wealthiest among us to help deal with the problem." He jabbed that the revised Ryan plan was no different than the first, only it used new "poll-tested words."

The first test of how Obama and Biden respond to the Ryan choice will come Monday, when the president opens a three-day campaign bus tour of Iowa and the vice president starts a three-day swing of his own through North Carolina and southwest Virginia.

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michael.memoli@latimes.com

Twitter: @mikememoli

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