WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, gets these glowing testimonials on the campaign trail: "An articulate spokesperson for Gov. Romney's vision." ''A serious guy with serious ideas." Those are the appraisals from none other than Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Not your typical partisan line of criticism. But unlike the Obama camp's initially dismissive approach toward Sarah Palin in 2008, Ryan is being portrayed by the president's team as the picture of gravitas. It's all about building him up to better take him and Romney down.
From the moment Romney picked Ryan as his vice presidential candidate, Obama's campaign has redoubled its efforts to draw attention to the Republican budget plan that Ryan wrote and that the GOP majority in the House passed. In Ryan, Obama's campaign team in Chicago concluded they had the perfect counterpoint to an election that had the makings of a referendum on the president's handling of the lackluster economy.
"They are playing on our turf right now," Obama pollster Joel Benenson said Thursday.
Obama's team has focused particularly on the Ryan budget's proposal to alter Medicare, seeking to create doubts and fears among older voters. Romney's camp, anticipating the criticism, engaged in the debate head-on, launching a pre-emptive ad that takes issue with Obama's health care plan and its reductions in Medicare spending
"I'm sure they have convinced themselves that doing that helps them politically somehow," Romney's senior adviser, Kevin Madden, said. "But I think it's an admission that Paul Ryan is the real deal when it comes to talking about ideas and issues."
"Team Obama clearly would rather run against Ryan/Romney than Romney/Ryan," adds political strategist Mark McKinnon, a top adviser in the campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain. "They want to make the election a referendum on Ryan's budget."