COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Led by President Barack Obama, Democrats claimed on Monday that Republican challenger Mitt Romney privately backs controversial plans to overhaul Medicare and cut trillions from social programs that his new vice presidential running mate has publicly proposed.

Rep. Paul Ryan "has given definition to the vague commitments that Romney has been making," Vice President Joe Biden said as the Democrats welcomed the Wisconsin lawmaker to the race with a barrage of criticism. "There is no distinction" between the two, he said.

Romney lauded his running mate's work as he resumed his own four-day bus trip through campaign battleground states.

Ryan has "come up with ideas that are very different than the president's," Romney said in Florida, the state with the highest percentage of residents age 65 and over. "The president's idea for Medicare was to cut it by $700 billion. That's not the right answer. We want to make sure that we preserve and protect Medicare."

The former Massachusetts governor did not say so, but the tax-and-spending plans Ryan produced in the past two years as chairman of the House Budget Committee call for the repeal of Obama's health care plan but also would retain the $700 billion in Medicare cuts that were part of it.

Romney said there may be differences between his own budget plan and Ryan's, but he refused to say what specific policies his budget would include that would differ from the Wisconsin congressman's detailed proposal.

Aides said during the day that Romney has long disagreed with that specific element of the House Republican plan, and they said while he wants to repeal the health care law he also wants to restore the funds to Medicare.

The day marked a first in the race for the White House, with both major party tickets campaigning at full strength and a little more than 80 days remaining in a campaign dominated by a weak economic recovery and a national jobless rate of 8.3 percent.

Polls taken before Romney added Ryan to his ticket over the weekend showed Obama with a slender advantage in a contest that will be decided in eight to 10 battleground states.

Large crowds turned out for Romney and Ryan's joint appearances over the weekend, and conservatives have hailed the selection of the Wisconsin lawmaker, who is regarded by fellow Republicans as an intellectual leader within the party on budget issues.

Democrats counter that Ryan's presence on the ticket will make it easier to tag Romney with political ownership of the budgets that Republicans pushed through the House in 2011 and again this year. They say it will help their candidates in House and Senate races as well as the campaign for the White House.

As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan was the chief architect of tax and spending plans that called for turning Medicare into a voucher-like program beginning a decade from now. Critics say it would lead to higher costs for beneficiaries, while supporters argue that a fundamental change is needed to prevent the program from going bankrupt.

Ryan's budget also calls for cuts of more than $5 trillion in other projected spending over a decade as part of a plan to ease future deficits.

Rebutting Democratic objections to such plans, Romney told reporters in Miami it is "radical and extreme to pass on trillions of dollars of debts to our children knowing that we're never going to pay back these obligations that we've taken on."

He said he was sure there are some differences between Ryan's budget and his own, but he made no mention of the $700 billion difference over cuts initially enacted as part of Obama's health care law. "We're on the same page. ... We want to get America back on track to a balanced budget," he said, referring to his running mate.

While the candidates engaged in campaign rituals – Ryan attended the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines and Obama snacked in Denison, Iowa, on a rainbow snow cone with cherry and watermelon ice – the costliest ad campaign in history churned on.

Restore Our Future, a super PAC that supports Romney, announced it was spending $10.5 million to air a commercial over the next several days that shows Obama saying his economic plan worked and "the private sector is doing fine" despite high joblessness and a weak recovery. The ad also accuses the president's allies of airing shameful and dishonest attacks, and the announcer says, "With no record to run on, it's the only strategy Obama has left."

That was a reference to a commercial aired by Priorities USA Action, which supports Obama, in which a retired steel worker suggests Romney and his private equity firm, Bain Capital, bear some responsibility for his wife's death from cancer.

The ad has been judged harshly by independent fact checkers and vociferously disputed by Romney's campaign. Even so, Obama's re-election aides decline to disavow it, noting they are barred by law from coordinating efforts with the outside group.

Campaigning in person, the rival tickets ranged over some of the nation's most heavily contested terrain.

Obama set out on a three-day tour of Iowa, traveling in a black bus bearing the presidential seal on the side. Ryan was in Iowa, too, Biden in North Carolina, Romney in Florida.

Ryan did not mention Medicare as he made his debut as a solo campaigner on the Republican ticket. Instead, in an appearance at the Iowa State Fair outside Des Moines, he said Obama "is spending our children into a diminished future."

Noting that Obama was also in the state, he told his audience, "As you see the president come through in his bus tour, you might ask him the same question that I'm getting asked from people all around America. And that is, `Where are the jobs, Mr. President?'"

Fairgoers who attended his brief address were largely positive. Protesters interrupted him several times, chanting "Stop the war on the middle class," and one woman climbed on stage with Ryan before security could drag her away.

"She must not be from Iowa," Ryan said.

Obama had a jab of his own as he spoke to a crowd in Council Bluffs in the dusty, drought-ridden Midwest.

He said Ryan was among House Republican leaders blocking passage of legislation that "not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to natural disasters but also makes some necessary reforms and gives farmers and ranchers some long-term certainty ...

"So if you happen to see congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities."

Romney's campaign dismissed the criticism. "No one will work harder to defend farmers and ranchers than the Romney-Ryan ticket," said spokesman Ryan Williams.

In criticizing Ryan and other Republican lawmakers, Obama omitted that the GOP-controlled House approved a short-term drought relief bill before Congress left the Capitol for a long summer break. The measure is stuck in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where leaders prefer action on a longer-term farm bill that cleared on a bipartisan vote and includes the emergency aid.

With lawmakers gridlocked and away from the Capitol, Obama said the government would buy more than $150 million worth of meat and fish to help producers.

Later Monday, and a few hours after Ryan's appearance, Obama made an hour-long surprise stop at the Iowa State Fair. He greeted throngs of parents and their children, and later enjoyed a Bud Light and a pork chop with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former governor of the state.

A large crowd outside the Bud Tent chanted "four more years," and then some yelled, "Four more beers!"

Holding a beer in a clear plastic cup, Obama said, "It's going to go well with my pork chop."

___

Kasie Hunt reported from Florida. Associated Press writers Matthew Daly in North Carolina, Steve Peoples in Iowa and David Espo in Washington contributed.

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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>