(Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
Mitt Romney, who in two weeks will accept the Republican nomination for president, has chosen Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan, 42, is known for his work on the federal budget and will bring the debate on deficit spending and entitlements to the forefront of the presidential election.
Romney made his selection official in the early morning hours on Saturday via a phone app. "Mitt's Choice for VP is Paul Ryan."
The former Massachusetts governor chose the backdrop of the navy ship USS Wisconsin to formally introduce Ryan at 9:21 a.m. EDT. "It is my pleasure to officially introduce my Vice Presidential running mate, Paul Ryan."
"I am deeply honored and excited to join you as your running mate," said Ryan in his opening statement.
While acknowledging that Obama inherited a "difficult situation" upon becoming president, Ryan denounced Obama for his "record of failure" that includes the "largest deficit" and the "biggest government since World War II."
"Our rights come from nature and God and not from government," he added. "We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcome."
Speculation has swirled for weeks about who Romney would select as his running mate and what strengths and weaknesses they would bring to a campaign that has already been defined by a string of vicious attack ads by both sides.
Besides Ryan, other names that were thought to be on the Romney campaign's short list included Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
However, the selection process took many twists and turns as potential candidates were vetted both on and off the campaign trail. A Boston newspaper reported that an unnamed campaign official said Romney made the decision to select Ryan on Aug. 1 and informed the senior aide in charge of the selection process, Beth Myers.
Political analysts have suggested that Ryan was chosen primarily for his work on budgetary matters, specifically his work on how to reduce the nation's ballooning budget deficit.
But the Obama campaign will waste little time in pointing out that part of Ryan's budget would cut entitlement spending, an issue that will be of concern to many low income voters who reside in swing states.
"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," read a statement released by the Obama campaign just as Ryan was being introduced.
"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."
Ryan, who was first elected to Congress as a 28-year-old in 1998, is serving his seventh term in Congress and has gained the respect of Tea Party supporters since 2010. GOP campaign consultants see Ryan's selection as a way to motivate the tea party and bring the election's focus back to the issue that they care most about, the economy.
"Selecting someone like Paul Ryan, who is so popular with tea party activists, proves that Mitt Romney is committed to addressing the economic issues that have been troubling our nation for the last four years," Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer said in a written statement.
Following the announcement, Romney and Ryan will make several stops in Virginia before going on a more extensive tour of swing states.