Paul Ryan made his first public appearance after being announced as Mitt Romney’s running mate Saturday morning and received the loudest applause of his debut speech when he said, “Our rights come from nature and God, not from government.”
The seven-term congressman and chair of the House Budget Committee spoke in Norfolk, Va. with the U.S.S. Wisconsin, named for his home state, as a backdrop. Romney accidentally introduced him as the “next president of the United States.”
“Every now and then I’m known to make a mistake,” joked the former Massachusetts governor. “I did not make a mistake with this guy.”
Ryan, joined by his wife and three children in the audience, returned the praise, calling Romney “the next president of the United States of America" on the first try.
“He and I share one commitment,” said Ryan, who rose to prominence as the architect of the House Republicans’ controversial budget proposal. “We will restore the greatness of this country.”
He shifted into attack mode, a role vice presidential candidates traditionally play, with criticism about the economic record of President Barack Obama, whom he called “the man Mitt Romney is about to replace.”
“This is a record of failure,” he said after ticking off statistics including an unemployment rate above 8% for the past three years. “President Obama and too many like him in Washington have refused to make difficult decisions because they are more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation.”
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina responded to the announce of Romney’s pick with a statement.
“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,” he said. “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. 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.”
Rick Santorum, who surged to second place in the Republican nomination contest before suspending his campaign this spring, cheered the Ryan selection in a statement.
"In addition to Congressman Ryan's stellar fiscal conservative positions, he is indeed a full-spectrum conservative," said Santorum. "He is solidly pro-life, pro-family, and will be an advocate for our military and our national security priorities. I look forward to supporting the Romney-Ryan ticket in the weeks to come."
With polls showing that most voters have already decided whom they will support in the election November, the campaigns are tasked with winning the undecided and energizing their bases. The selection of Ryan demonstrates a clear attempt by Romney to generate enthusiasm on the right.
“A faithful Catholic, Paul believes in the faith and dignity of every human life,” said Romney in his introduction.
While Ryan focused his remarks on the economy, the crowd in Norfolk, home to the world’s largest naval base, reserved the loudest cheers for his statements that alluded to differences in philosophy between the Republican and Democratic candidates.
“Our rights come from nature and God, not from government. That's who we are,” he said. “That's how we built this country. That's who we are. That's what made us great. That's our founding.”
Ryan made a similar statement to ABC News in July when he continued the call to repeal health care reform after the Supreme Court upheld the law, saying that rights “come from nature and God, according to the Declaration of Independence.” His view appears to defy the trajectory of civil rights progress in the country, where disenfranchised groups including LGBT Americans have repeatedly turned to the courts and legislatures, not religious authority, to win rights. According to an analysis of his record, Ryan voted against equality legislation all but once during his Congressional career.
The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement that called Romney and Ryan out-of-touch with the majority of Americans, including some Republicans, on equality issues.
"Ryan's record of voting against fairness, dignity and equality is out of touch with the majority of Americans and a fast growing majority of Republicans," said Chad Griffin, the group’s president. "LGBT Americans need leadership that will continue to fight for their rights to protect their families, marry the person they love, and enjoy equal protections under the law."
Groups representing gay and conservative Republicans, however, praised Ryan’s selection on the basis of his economic credentials. GOProud called him a “bold and inspired pick,” and the Log Cabin Republicans said that his presence on the ticket “will help Republican candidates up and down the ballot.”