Election 2012: What You Need to Know About GOP VP Pick Paul Ryan

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Mitt Romney was so overcome with emotion while introducing Paul Ryan as his running mate to challenge President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in November, that he bellowed, “the next President of the United States!” Once the snark cleared, this foot-in-your-mouth slip revealed what conservatives are calling a “bold move.” Why? This choice is seen as a play to fire up the conservative base of the Republican party.

But the congressman from Janesville, Wisconsin may alienate Latino or independent voters who believe that Ryan’s vision, laid out in his House of Representatives budget plan, is too extreme. It sets out to balance the budget and bring our more than $15 trillion dollar national debt under control. But at what cost? He proposes radical changes to popular programs, like partially privatizing social security and deep cuts to education funding.

Simply put, Romney’s VP pick frames the election for voters not just as a referendum on the President’s record on the economy and job creation, but as a choice on the size and role of the federal government. Do you think it should have a strong hand in helping us care for our health and educate our kids? Or does that hand control, even strangle our decisions and progress?

We decided to look at Ryan’s record organized around points, depending on your view, that can equally be argued as “pros” or “cons.”

Conservative Ideologue: Feared by some establishment Republicans, Ryan is revered by hardcore fiscal conservatives for his budget proposal, which defines the government’s ability to spend and its reach. Any praise has been met by fierce criticism of the Wisconsin Congressman’s economic and social beliefs, energizing the liberal base. Since the Saturday announcement, Barack Obama’s Twitter feed has almost exclusively focused on Romney’s running mate, for example: “FACT: Paul Ryan would ban all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.”

Geography: Paul Ryan is from the Midwest state of Wisconsin, where last year its Republican governor survived a recall election backed by public employee unions that accused him of balancing the state budget on their backs by requiring greater pension and health insurance contributions.  Although ahead in the polls, President Obama is most vulnerable in the “heartland,” including Wisconsin, Michigan, and perhaps Minnesota, according to ABC News. If he is able to help Romney “hold” the Midwest, how does Ryan play in Florida where 29 coveted electoral votes are at stake, which is also home to a powerful bloc of senior voters protective of their social security?

Religion: The Wisconsin Congressman is Catholic, which is an important “swing vote.” The Romney campaign may be betting that the President’s health care law recently upheld by the Supreme Court (which would require religious hospitals and universities to offer contraception) will galvanize Catholics who feel their religious freedoms are being trampled by the government. But these Christians, who are “reliable” voters, are themselves a diverse bunch. Will they cast ballots based more on hot-button cultural issues like reproductive rights, or be galvanized by principles of social equality and poverty?

Age: At 42, Ryan is the same age as Mitt Romney’s oldest son, injecting a “youthfulness” to the Republican ticket and seen by some political watchers as a play for the 18 to 29-year-old set, considered “Obama territory.” As stated in Election 2012: Forever Young, or Not, an opening exists among young people who are disillusioned with the President because of the high unemployment rate. 

Tell Us: How does the GOP VP pick influence your vote in November?

Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics contributor. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.

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