CHICAGO — Democrats pounced on Mitt Romney's selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate Saturday, saying the pick showed a commitment to "budget-busting tax cuts" for the wealthy and greater burdens on the middle class and seniors.
President Barack Obama's campaign team said Romney's choice made clear that the former Massachusetts governor would be forced to adhere to the principles laid out in the House Republican budget – authored by Ryan – which they said would undermine entitlement programs crucial to middle-class families and seniors. Democrats said privately that the choice of Ryan could help Obama in states with large numbers of elderly voters, such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Obama met with top advisers Saturday at his campaign headquarters shortly after arriving in Chicago for a series of birthday-themed fundraisers scheduled for Sunday. Obama spent about two and a half hours at the headquarters.
The president did not publicly comment on Ryan's selection and aides described the headquarters stop as a typical weekly meeting.
Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, said in a statement that Romney had "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."
Previewing the campaign's line of attack, Messina called Ryan the "architect of the radical Republican House budget" and said it would "end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors." Ryan was chief author of a House-backed budget plan that would curb overall entitlement spending and convert Medicare into a voucher-like system in which future seniors would receive subsidies to purchase health insurance on the open market.
Less than two hours after Romney introduced Ryan as his running mate, the Obama campaign released a 90-second Web video showing footage of the men appearing together. The ad calls Ryan the "mastermind behind the extreme GOP budget plan" and includes an audio clip of Romney saying earlier this year that it would be "marvelous" if the Senate were to adopt the Ryan budget. The ad ends with this tagline: "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan: Back to the failed top-down policies that crashed our economy."
In an e-mail to supporters touting the video, David Axelrod, adviser to Obama's campaign, said it is the campaign's job to make sure voters get the facts about Ryan's record in the coming days.
"On so many issues, Paul Ryan, like Mitt Romney, has taken extreme positions that are out of touch with the values most American share," Axelrod wrote.
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida said Ryan had laid the groundwork in Congress for Romney's budget plan, which she said gives tax cuts to millionaires while punishing middle-class families. She said Romney and Ryan would repeat mistakes of former President George W. Bush.
"A Romney-Ryan ticket is sure to take us back and repeat the same catastrophic mistakes that got us into the mess we found ourselves in in the first place," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has blasted Romney for failing to release additional years of his tax returns, said in a statement that by picking Ryan, Romney "has doubled down on his commitment to gut Social Security and end Medicare as we know it."
Romney's choice "demonstrates that catering to the tea party and the far-right is more important to him that standing up for the middle class," said Reid, D-Nev.
Obama had no public events planned in Chicago on Saturday but was expected to raise $3.5 million to $4 million at a series of fundraisers Sunday connected to his recent 51st birthday, including and event at his South Side home. The president was then taking a three-day swing through Iowa, the state that launched his presidential bid in 2008.
Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.
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