Ryan Offers Bold Ideas To GOP Presidential Ticket

Aug 13, 2012
Originally published on August 13, 2012 4:37 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan go their separate ways on the campaign trail today: Romney to Florida, and as we mentioned, Ryan will be in Iowa. Now, yesterday, the Republican running mates stopped off in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin. Ryan has represented that state's first district for 14 years, and in that time, he's gained national attention for proposing sweeping changes in the way government works. He's also watched out for his constituents.

Here's NPR's Brian Naylor.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: When Paul Ryan first campaigned for Congress, he advocated themes much like the ones he does now. Here he is at the opening of his Racine campaign office in 1998.

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NAYLOR: Ryan made his first big splash in Washington proposing a plan that would allow Social Security recipients to invest some of their benefits in the stock market. Though it was championed by the Bush administration, it collapsed in the face of united opposition from Democrats. He followed that with what he called the Path to Prosperity, a budget plan that included another sweeping idea: transforming Medicare from a guaranteed benefit to a voucher program.

After it was adopted as part of the House Republican budget last year, President Obama harshly denounced it in a speech, as Ryan looked on from the front rows.

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NAYLOR: There is likely to be a lot more rhetoric like that from the Obama campaign now that Ryan is on the GOP ticket.

And Ryan and his proposals are clearly a risk for Republicans. In a special election last year in Upstate New York, now-Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Hochul defeated her GOP opponent with the help of ads like this one.

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NAYLOR: Ryan himself hasn't escaped the fallout from his vision of major changes to entitlement programs. He faced a group of angry constituents at this town meeting in Kenosha in 2009.

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NAYLOR: Ryan has also run the risk of offending Tea Party activists. He voted for the TARP program in 2008 to rescue the nation's banks. And he backed the bailout of the auto industry, which has a major presence in his district. Ryan shows no signs of backing away from his ideas, and, in fact, seems to enjoy the fight.

Before he ran for Congress, one of his first jobs in Washington was writing speeches for Jack Kemp, the former congressman who co-founded the conservative think tank Empower America. Ryan has said he admired Kemp's inclusive conservatism and happy warrior spirit. He's also a fan of novelist Ayn Rand.

He told enraptured conservatives at his year's CPAC Conference in Washington that the times call for bold solutions.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.