WASHINGTON — Republican Mitt Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, wasted little time tearing into President Barack Obama on Saturday, lambasting the Democrat's "record of failure" just hours after being named to the GOP ticket.
Moving into a role as Romney's chief attack dog, Ryan declared Saturday that the nation under Obama's leadership is struggling through the "worst economic recovery in 70 years."
"No one disputes President Obama inherited a difficult situation," Ryan said, standing at Romney's side for the first time as the Republican presidential ticket on the USS Wisconsin, a retired battleship. "And, in his first two years, with his party in complete control of Washington, he passed nearly every item on his agenda. But that didn't make things better."
Romney selected the 42-year-old Ryan, a seven-term congressman, from a short list that included Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Ryan is the architect of a conservative and intensely controversial long-term budget plan to remake Medicare and cut trillions in federal spending. His selection immediately thrusts those budget plans into the forefront of the presidential contest.
Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, called Ryan "the architect of the radical Republican House budget" proposal and said the plan "would end Medicare as we know it."
"We won't duck the tough issues," Ryan said during his acceptance speech. "We will lead."
As his family came on stage, Ryan knelt to embrace his 10-year-old daughter, Liza, and sons Charles, 8, and Sam, 7, before kissing his wife, Janna.
The GOP ticket made its debut at a naval museum in Norfolk, Va., the initial stop of a bus tour through four battleground states in as many days. It seemed likely a stop in Ryan's home state would be added to previously scheduled appearances in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.
As part of the tour, Romney and Ryan stopped at a bakery in Ashland, Va., to buy pie. Asked if saying yes to Romney was an easy decision, Ryan said: "It was. It was. We've got to save the country."
At a subsequent event at a college gymnasium, the walls were decorated with printed and handmade Romney signs, but none touted Ryan – an indication of the secrecy that surrounded the announcement.
Romney initially made his revelation to supporters via a phone app Saturday morning. "Mitt's Choice for VP is Paul Ryan," it said and implored backers to spread the word.
One campaign official said Romney had settled on Ryan as his pick on Aug. 1, more than a week ago, and informed Beth Myers, the longtime aide who had shepherded the secretive process that led to the selection. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was unauthorized to provide details.
During his formal remarks, the congressman blamed Obama for the nation's unemployment rate that has exceeded 8 percent for more than three years, the longest run since the Great Depression.
"Higher unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is not a new normal. It is a result of misguided policies," Ryan said.
Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee and primary author of conservative tax-and-spending blueprints that the tea party-infused Republican majority approved over Democratic opposition in 2011 and again in 2012.
It envisions transforming Medicare into a program in which future seniors would receive government checks that they could use to purchase health insurance. Under the current program, the government directly pays doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.
Ryan and other supporters say the change is needed to prevent the program from financial calamity. Critics argue it would impose ever-increasing costs on seniors.
Other elements of the budget plan would cut projected spending for Medicaid, which provides health care for the poor, as well as food stamps, student loans and other social programs that Obama and Democrats have pledged to defend.
Ryan's budget plan died in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
"Our rights come from nature and from God, not government," Ryan said. "That's who we are. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes."
Associated Press writer Kasie Hunt in Virginia contributed to this report.