* Tearful homecoming in Wisconsin

* Romney shows flash of anger at Obama

* Ryan's stance on Medicare could hurt vote among seniors

By Steve Holland and Sam Youngman

WAUKESHA, Wisc., Aug 12 (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan home to a tearful welcome in Wisconsin on Sunday in a celebratory event that produced a flash of anger from Romney over what he considers dishonest campaigning by President Barack Obama.

Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman elevated to Romney's No. 2 on Saturday, wiped away tears and choked up as he and Romney made a dramatic entrance on stage in front of a crowd of around 8,000 to the theme song of the movie, "Air Force One."

Clearly reveling in the moment as the native son come home, Ryan told them: "I'm a Wisconsinite through and through."

"My veins run with cheese, bratwurst, a little Spotted Cow ... and some Millers," he said to laughter. "I like to hunt here, I like to fish here, to snowmobile here. I even think ice fishing is interesting."

The Nov. 6 election is more than two months away, but Sunday's rally had the intensity of a typical late-October campaign event. It showed how Romney's selection of the Wisconsin congressman as his running mate has injected new energy into a campaign that had struggled to move beyond Democrats' efforts to cast Romney as a wealthy former private equity executive who cannot relate to middle-class Americans.

Romney hopes the enthusiasm produced by the No. 2 pick will generate a spark that will help him erase a lead Obama has produced in recent polls of voters.

"What a homecoming for a terrific guy," Romney told the Waukesha crowd. "I guess you think I made the right decision, the right choice? I know I did."

When a heckler tried to disrupt the event, Romney unleashed frustrations at the Obama campaign over a television ad produced by a pro-Obama group that all but suggested Romney shared some of the blame for the death of the wife of a steelworker, who lost his job and health insurance when Romney's Bain Capital bought the company.

The ad has been roundly condemned by independent fact-checkers, but the Obama campaign has not called for the ad to be pulled. While the Romney campaign has engaged in negative tactics as well, his aides felt the ad crossed a line.

"There's no question but if you follow the campaign of Barack Obama, he's going to do everything in his power to make this the lowest, meanest negative campaign in history. We're not going to let that happen. This is going to be a campaign about ideas about the future of America," Romney said angrily.

"Mr. President, take your campaign out of the gutter," he said. "Let's talk about the real issues that America faces."

Romney, 65, seemed relieved to have a sidekick to end what he has called the "two against one" dynamic of the race, with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on one side and Romney on the other.

"It's a far more compelling dynamic than just being out there on my own," Romney told reporters late Saturday.

But it also was evident that Romney's selection of Ryan - who is known for his sweeping budget plan to reduce government spending and debt by trimming taxes and revamping Medicare and other social programs - is going to raise a series of hurdles for his campaign as it sprints toward Election Day.

In choosing Ryan, Romney is all but attaching himself to Ryan's controversial budget plan, which has been blasted by Democrats who say it would dismantle popular social programs that help the elderly and the poor.

Ryan's selection also suggested that Romney is tackling a prickly task during an intense, nasty and likely close race for the White House. He is asking Americans to consider tough questions about the future of Medicare, the government-backed health insurance program for the elderly, and a range of other government programs.

During an interview that Romney and Ryan gave to CBS's Bob Schieffer on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Ryan responded to criticism of his Medicare plan by noting that it would apply only to those younger than 55.

"My mom is a Medicare senior in Florida," Ryan said. "Our point is, we need to preserve their benefits, because government made promises to them that they've organized their retirements around. In order to make sure we can do that, you must reform it for those of us who are younger. And we think these reforms are good reforms."

Romney and Ryan will now head off in different directions, Romney to resume bus tour in Florida and Ryan goes to Iowa on Monday.


SEEKING A NATIONAL DEBATE?

In previous elections, candidates who have started a not-so-popular conversation with American voters have run into problems.

In 1984, for example, Democrat Walter Mondale emphasized the need for higher taxes and was swamped at the ballot box as voters re-elected Republican Ronald Reagan.

If Romney's campaign wants to foster a national debate over social programs and government entitlements, the big challenge will be doing so under the white-hot glow of the final weeks of a presidential campaign that so far has been defined by sound-bite messaging and out-of-context attacks by both sides.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus cast Romney's campaign as the one being honest with Americans about the nation's fiscal future and said Obama's team is more interested in attacking Romney.

Selecting Ryan shows that Romney "has the leadership and courage to present to the American people a real contrast and a real debate that the American people deserve," Priebus said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Even so, Romney's campaign stressed that the presumptive Republican nominee would propose his own fiscal plan, suggesting it did not want the former Massachusetts governor to be tied to everything in Ryan's budget.

"The thing you have to remember about these campaigns is that Governor Romney is at the top of the ticket, and that Governor Romney's vision for the country is something that congressman Ryan supports," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said.


DEMOCRATS TAKE AIM

Democrats' efforts to cast Ryan - and, by extension, Romney - as a threat to Medicare could be key in the election.

Ryan's plan calls for an end to the guaranteed benefit in Medicare and replaces it with a system that would give vouchers to recipients to pay for health insurance.

The risk in such a plan is that if healthcare costs rise faster than the value of the vouchers, seniors would have to pay the difference.

Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod said on "Meet the Press" that the Medicare changes supported by Ryan would send the healthcare program, which polls indicate most Americans do not want changed, into a "death spiral."

Independent groups that typically support Democrats have been more dramatic in their criticism.

Romney rejected the notion that Ryan's plan would kill Medicare.

Ryan "has a plan ... to make sure we can save Medicare," Romney said. "And guess what, he's one of two sponsors - and guess what, the other is a leading Democrat," a reference to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

Wyden, however, disagreed with Romney's characterization of his work on the Medicare issue, saying that he has voted against Medicare changes proposed in Ryan's budget.

Wyden told The Huffington Post that he merely had worked on a "policy paper" with Ryan that was designed to "start a conversation about how Democrats and Republicans might work together to uphold the Medicare guarantee."

Also on HuffPost:

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  • Marco Rubio

    "Throughout his life, Mitt Romney has made great decisions, and choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate is a truly inspired choice. I got to know Paul during my Senate campaign when he endorsed me early on when I was still considered a long shot. Paul Ryan is a courageous reformer who understands our nation's challenges, has proposed bold policy solutions to solve them, and has shown the courage to stand up to President Obama and other Washington politicians trying to tear him down. "The Romney-Ryan ticket is going to win in November because it offers the American people visionary leadership to recapture the free enterprise spirit that has empowered countless Americans to build businesses from scratch and live the American dream. I'm excited about the visionary change a Romney-Ryan team will bring to Washington, and I look forward to campaigning

  • Rob Portman

    <blockquote> "Mitt Romney has made a great choice in Paul Ryan. He is an accomplished public servant and a leading voice on the most pressing issues facing our country. Paul is one of my best friends in Congress and someone I have worked closely with as a former colleague on the House Ways & Means Committee. "Jane and I wish Paul and Janna and their kids the very best. As the Chairman of the Romney campaign in Ohio, I look forward to working with Paul to ensure that the Romney-Ryan ticket carries Ohio and is victorious in November. Most importantly, as a member of the Senate, I look forward to working closely with a Romney-Ryan Administration to restore fiscal sanity and enact pro-growth policies to create jobs."</blockquote>

  • Obama for American Campaign Manager Jim Messina

    <blockquote>"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. 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."</blockquote>

  • Michelle Malkin

  • Michael Moore

  • Brad Woodhouse

  • Rachel Maddow MSNBC

  • mike murphy

  • Michael Steele

  • Larry Sabato

  • davidfrum

  • Charles M. Blow

  • Robert Reich

  • Nilay Patel

  • Mark Harris

  • Progressive Change Campaign Committee

    The Progressive Change Campaign Committee issued the following statement: <blockquote>"Paul Ryan is a right-wing extremist who wants to end Medicare. This is a major unforced error by Mitt Romney. It gives President Obama and Democrats a chance to draw a clear contrast in 2012 by promising not to cut one penny from Medicare or Social Security benefits. If Democrats win in a landslide, this was the game changer." -- Adam Green, co-founder, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a 1 million member grassroots organization</blockquote>

  • Laura Ingraham

  • John Kasich

  • Ari Fleischer

  • Susan B. Anthony List

    The national pro-life organization released the following statement: <blockquote>"By selecting Congressman Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, Governor Romney demonstrates his commitment to protecting American women and unborn children," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List. "A longtime pro-life advocate and a strong fiscal conservative, Congressman Ryan has insisted that there can be no 'truce' when it comes to advancing the rights of the unborn and achieving fiscal responsibility. He has a pristine pro-life voting record and will be an asset to Governor Romney's campaign. "Pro-life voters are a key demographic and help secure victory in critical elections," continued Dannenfelser. "The addition of a second strong pro-life leader to the ticket energizes the pro-life base - we are thrilled with this pick."</blockquote>

  • GOProud

    <blockquote>"The selection of Paul Ryan is a bold and inspired pick," said Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director of GOProud. "Paul Ryan has been the architect of policies that would benefit all Americans, especially gay Americans." "Paul Ryan is one of the few political leaders anywhere in the country willing to tell the American people the truth about the unprecedented budget crisis we are facing, and - more importantly - willing to put forward bold plans to put this country back on the road to fiscal solvency," continued LaSalvia.</blockquote>

  • Log Cabin Republicans

    <blockquote>"Congressman Paul Ryan is a strong choice for vice president, and his addition to the GOP ticket will help Republican candidates up and down the ballot," said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director. "As chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of the Republican "path to prosperity" that provided the blueprint for serious spending cuts in this Congress, nobody is more qualified to articulate a conservative economic vision to restore the American economy and stimulate job creation. </blockquote>

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)

  • Jason Chaffetz

  • Center For American Progress President Neera Tanden

    <blockquote>"Just like Sen. John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin and George H.W. Bush's selection of Dan Quayle, Mitt Romney has been cowed by the right wing into choosing an extreme vice presidential nominee who will alienate moderate voters. It's now clearer than ever that as president, Mitt Romney would end Medicare as we know it, and will raise taxes on middle class families by more than $2,000in order to slash taxes on the wealthiest Americans. While there is a lot that can be said about Paul Ryan's extreme views, more important is what this choice says about Mitt Romney: that he is unwilling or unable to stand up to the far-right of his party and select a vice-presidential candidate that is both able to be president on day one and capable of governing by reaching across the aisle."</blockquote>

  • SEIU President Mary Kay Henry

    <blockquote>"If there were ever any doubt that Mitt Romney is not on the side of working people, today's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as a running mate makes it crystal clear. With this choice, Romney has shown the American people that he believes Rep. Ryan's extremist, irresponsible and anti-worker agenda is what's right for our country. "Rep. Ryan has made a name for himself by fighting in the halls of Congress for tax giveaways for the wealthy and big corporations while proposing to gut vital services like Medicare and education, and eliminating any sense of retirement security for working families. His no-holds barred record of attacking seniors, children, and working men and women is frightening for the 99 percent of Americans who are not rich -- but for Mitt Romney it was a calling card to choose him as a running mate."

  • NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan

    <blockquote>"Mitt Romney's choice of Rep. Ryan as his running mate reminds us of why elections matter when it comes to our ability to make personal and private medical decisions," Keenan continued. "The outcome of the 2012 presidential election very well could determine whether abortion remains legal and accessible for the next generation of American women. Romney has pledged that taking away women's rights will be a priority for him and his choice of Ryan amplifies that promise to the extreme anti-choice backers of this ticket. My organization's priority is to make sure President Obama remains in the White House."</blockquote>

  • Kelly Ayotte

  • Herman Cain

  • Rick Perry

  • Tommy Thompson

  • Pete Hoekstra

  • Steve King

  • Eric Cantor

  • Dana Rohrabacher

  • Kenny Marchant

  • Gregg Harper

  • Rick Santorum

  • Rep. Kathy Hochul

    <blockquote>"Americans deserve new ideas for how we can reduce the debt and protect our seniors and the middle class. Just one year ago, Western New York voters rejected the Ryan-Collins policies that would end Medicare as we know it and hurt middle class families while giving more tax cuts to the rich. Our country needs to move forward, not re-hash failed ideas. Given Chris Collins' ongoing support for tax cuts for the rich that add nearly $1 trillion to the deficit and his willingness to send his business to China to line his pockets, it is clear my opponent is going to continue to pursue policies and priorities that have already been rejected."</blockquote>

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski

  • Claire McCaskill

  • Jim DeMint

  • Chris Van Hollen

  • Rep. Mary Bono Mack

  • Sam Brownback

  • John Shimkus

  • Rep. Trent Franks

  • Frank Pallone

  • Michele Bachmann

  • Rob Zerban

    <blockquote>"Now that Paul Ryan's personal ambition has clearly trumped his interest in the First District, I have no doubt he'll find himself out of a job come November. Once Wisconsinites and voters across our country learn the truth about Ryan's radical plot to end Medicare as we know it, de-fund women's health care, and preserve tax breaks for millionaires, they'll vote against him not just once, but twice. In the coming weeks, our campaign will work with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to continue getting the word out on Ryan's indefensible record, and building momentum to ensure victory on Election Day."</blockquote>

  • Scott Walker

    <blockquote>"Governor Mitt Romney made a bold and reform-minded selection in Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. This election has to be about who is going to look out for the next generation. America needs a comeback team to turn around the economy and to turn around the fiscal status of our country. Romney and Ryan have the ideas and the experience needed to take on these core issues. This is a great day for Wisconsin and an even greater day for America."</blockquote>