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Ryan Offers Bold Ideas To GOP Presidential Ticket

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Ryan Offers Bold Ideas To GOP Presidential Ticket

Elections

Ryan Offers Bold Ideas To GOP Presidential Ticket

Ryan Offers Bold Ideas To GOP Presidential Ticket

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GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan stopped off in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin Sunday. Ryan has represented Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District for 14 years. In that time, he's gained national attention for proposing sweeping changes to the way government works while also watching out for his constituents.

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: Do you want to send more of your hard-earned dollars, more, more of your money to Washington so they can tell your school districts how to run the show? Or do you want to have more control and power to do it yourselves? That's the difference, here.

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether. It is a Trojan Horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Jane Corwin said she would vote for the 2012 Republican budget that would essentially end Medicare. Seniors would have to pay $6,400 more for the same coverage.

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

RYAN: We're taxing our employers - our businesses a lot more than our foreign competitors are taxing theirs. The international average for the corporate tax rate is 25 percent. Ours is 35 percent.

(CROWD CHATTER)

Hey come on. Everybody...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You're wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Let him talk.

RYAN: Let me - all right.

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)

RYAN: Because boldness and clarity offer the greatest opportunity to create a winning coalition. We will not only win the next election. We have a unique opportunity to sweep and remake the political landscape.

NAYLOR: And now, in the next 90 or so days, Paul Ryan gets a chance to sell those bold ideas to voters as Mitt Romney's running mate, at the top of the GOP ticket.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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