Maryland Republicans praised Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate as a bold choice for the campaign, but state Democrats criticized Romney’s decision because of Ryan’s positions on cutting benefits to the poor and middle class and opposition to abortion, even when the pregnant woman’s life is endangered.
“It’s an excellent choice. It consolidates conservatives and makes our ticket stronger at the top,” said David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party.
The selection of Ryan, 42, who has served in the House since first winning election at 28, helps accentuate the differences between the Republican plan for the country and the Democrats’ vision, Ferguson said.
“Paul Ryan makes the Republican ticket a ticket of big ideas,” Ferguson said. “I think it was an excellent choice.”
But Democrats say Ryan’s ideas, including his budget plan to overhaul Medicare, are too radical and would hurt middle-income and poor Americans. Ryan wants Medicare to give seniors, starting in 2023, the option of choosing either a conventional fee-for-service plan from the government or a private insurance plan. The government would provide vouchers to help pay the cost of premiums, but critics say the plan shifts costs to seniors.
“The Romney-Ryan agenda would end Medicare as we know it, raise taxes on the poor to pay for tax breaks for the rich, make college less affordable, and cut Social Security,” said Yvette Lewis, the Maryland Democratic Party’s chairwoman.
U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Dist. 6) of Buckeystown said Romney chose a proven leader in Congress.
“Marylanders and most Americans are disappointed, discouraged and they don’t want more of the same kind of changes they got from President [Barack] Obama,” Bartlett said.
While much of the immediate media attention has focused on Ryan’s self-described role as a deficit hawk, others point out he has supported bills opposed to abortion, including in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is in danger.
Social issues might be important in a Republican primary, but in the general election Romney and Ryan are focused “like a laser” on jobs and the economy, and only the Democrats are bringing up social issues as a way to distract from that, Ferguson said.
But House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville called Ryan’s budget plans wrong for the country because they would “shift the burden of deficit reduction onto the vulnerable and middle class alone, and slash funding for critical programs.”
U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee that Ryan chairs, said Romney’s selection of Ryan shows the Republicans want to help the wealthiest at the expense of the middle class.
“We tried trickle-down economics under President Bush and it clearly failed. Now is not the time to turn back the clock,” Van Hollen said.