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Romney Campaign: Paul Ryan is VP Choice

Aired August 11, 2012 - 08:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

We're following the breaking news in the presidential race. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Mitt Romney getting ready to publicly announce the biggest decision of his campaign so far, his new running mate and that will be Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

The Romney campaign has issued a written statement already calling the Romney-Ryan ticket and I'm quoting now, America's comeback team. Many conservatives are certainly cheering this decision as a bold move by Romney that will help energize the base and show voters that Romney is really serious about economic change.

The two men will appear together for the first time as running mates in Norfolk, Virginia with the U.S.S. Wisconsin, the old battleship as a backdrop. Then they will begin a bus tour that will take them toward the Republican national convention in Tampa. That begins in about three weeks.

Of course, we will bring you Mitt Romney's announcement live. We're standing by for that from Norfolk, Virginia.

Let's bring in our own Jim Acosta who's on the scene in Norfolk for us right now.

You're there. That crowd is getting bigger and bigger. Folks are showing up to hear history unfold.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I just got confirmation from a senior Romney adviser this is not earth shattering. It's obviously a given. But Paul Ryan will be here for the announcement later on this morning. We can also report that a new Twitter handle has been set up for the Wisconsin Congressman. It is now @paulryanvp.

So the Romney campaign is starting to lay the groundwork for their vice presidential pick. And Wolf, I will tell you that getting to the methodology, the rationale for why they settled on Paul Ryan, it's interesting. I had a conversation with Stuart Stevens, a senior Romney adviser a couple of weeks ago.

And I was asking him about these questions about Bain Capital and Romney's business record, that the Obama campaign was really hammering the GOP contender on. Stuart Stevens said to me at that time, he said this race will be about big ideas. It will be about big contrast. I don't think he was tipping his hand and suggesting it was Paul Ryan at this point. But this Paul Ryan pick really confirms that, Wolf. It's going to be very difficult for the Obama campaign to go after Mitt Romney on those personal issues on his business background on Bain Capital when really Mitt Romney has thrown down a marker here to say, no, this is going to be about fiscal issues. It's going to be about the national debt. It's going to be very much about this vision that Paul Ryan has been working towards his entire political career.

It's sort of interesting to see, Wolf, typically when you see a candidate running for president it's the vision of the top of the ticket that becomes central to the campaign. But you could argue that it is the vision of the bottom of this ticket, Paul Ryan's vision, that's going to be at least the central focus of this campaign as it rolls on here.

But yes, you're right. You can see this crowd is getting very big behind me. You see the U.S.S. Wisconsin also behind me. Still at this point Wolf, no signs of Paul Ryan physically or in the signage here on the site at this campaign event. It is a sign that all of this is still a work in progress at this point, Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by, Jim Acosta.

He's in Norfolk, Virginia right near the U.S.S. Wisconsin, the battleship, that's the backdrop for this announcement.

Forty two-year-old Paul Ryan will be the vice presidential running mate to Mitt Romney. John King is here with us watching all of this unfold. You had a chance to go in-depth, take a much closer look at who this young man is.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a fascinating choice. When Mitt Romney started a short list, we started with Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio. Then, we heard a lot of buzz about Tim Pawlenty, the former governor from Minnesota.

But in the end, he turned to a 42-year-old guy, a House member from southern Wisconsin that many conservatives said he very much needed to shake up the race.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We want to give you that scalpel.

KING (voice-over): For Paul Ryan, debating Joe Biden might feel like a demotion.

RYAN: So my question is, why not freeze spending now and would you support a line item veto and help get a vote on it in the House?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me respond to the two specific questions, but I want to just push back a little bit on the underlying premises, about us increasing spending by 84 percent.

RYAN: The discretionary spending and the bill Congress signs into law, that has increased 84 percent.

OBAMA: We'll have a longer debate on the budget numbers then, all right?

KING: Ryan is the GOP numbers guy. The chairman who is not afraid to say in his view the only way back to fiscal sanity is to dramatically shrink government and fundamentally change Medicare.

RYAN: If you don't address the issues now, they're going to steam roll us as a country. And the issue is, the more you delay fixing these problems, the much uglier the solutions are going to have to be.

KING: In short, he's a lightning rod. And if Mitt Romney tops Ryan to share the ticket, he will dramatically reshape the 2012 race.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It would be a bold, it would be a risky choice. It's hard for me to see Mitt Romney who has played it safe all the way through this campaign making that kind of gamble.

KING: There are upsides. It would energize the GOP base sometimes suspicious of Romney. Ryan is an energetic debater and campaigner, and at just 42, he would add youthful vigor to the ticket.

Close friends like former House colleague Mark Green say Ryan would help Romney in Wisconsin and across the Midwest.

MARK GREEN (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: He gets that sort of blue collar conservatism that is the heart of the Republican Party.

KING: But tapping Ryan is a gamble because of the House GOP budget that bears his name. Up until now, Romney has done everything to make this campaign a referendum on the incumbent.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president's policy are not creating jobs.

KING: Add Ryan to the ticket, and there is no escaping this.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it must be taken off the table.

Other potential downsides, Ryan has never run statewide. He has no foreign policy experience. And some will question whether a 42-year- old House member is ready to be commander in chief.

GERGEN: One of the stars of the Republican over the next 10 to 20 years, whether he is ready at this moment only a campaign trail can tell. He's going to get a real beating.

KING: Ryan says family history makes him a fitness fanatic, leading House colleagues in grueling cross training workouts.

RYAN: My dad died of a heart attack at 55, my grandfather at 57. So, I've always had this incentive to stay healthy.

KING: And an avid hunter, as Green learned one day when he sent an e- mail from his post as ambassador to Tanzania.

GREEN: I got this response saying, "I'm sitting in a deer state. It's hunting season. Leave me alone."

KING: He is a self-described nerd, but don't under estimate Ryan's ambition or his competitive streak. It's clear, if he had his druthers, he'd rather debate the president.

RYAN: I love the idea of Barack Obama, I love the fact that we have elected an African-American man as a president. I think that's just really say cool thing. I just don't like the ideas is coming from Barack Obama.

KING: But it is Romney who will share the biggest fall debate stage.

RYAN: Governor Mitt Romney, hopefully the next president of the United States of America.


KING: We now know it is Paul Ryan. He won't get to debate the president in the fall. He will get to debate Joe Biden. Maybe he'll come up and say, hey, can I call you Joe?

And this is a cruel process. Tim Pawlenty who was on the short list as he said, he has some events with Mitt Romney in New Hampshire today. He says he'll go forward with those.

Rob Portman, who was leading the list at one point, he's doing a 100 mile bike ride today to raise money for cancer research.

Wolf, when we make the announcement, I was just told by a campaign official, you will not only see Paul Ryan on the U.S.S. Wisconsin but as you saw in the piece in the picture there his wife Katy and their three children, they're on hand as well.

BLITZER: Three children, Liza, Charlie and Sam, his wife Janna (ph). We'll see the whole Ryan family. These are live pictures, by the way, where they are getting ready for this announcement.

So what does Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States, think of Paul Ryan and his ideas? Last month, this is what Vice President Biden said.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are decent honorable men and women. I'm not playing a game these guys are bad guys. They just have a different value set as to what is the most important thing that we should be doing. Just look at Congressman Ryan, a bright, bright guy, an honorable man.

His budget, which has been embraced by I believe every member in the Republican side of the House of Representatives. You might remember the first Ryan budget last year, there was nothing subtle about it. It dismantled Medicare and would have turned it into a voucher program over a 10-year period.


BLITZER: A little preview of what's in store for a debate potentially between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Let's bring in our CNN contributors John Avlon, he's a senior political columnist with the, the former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, and Democratic strategist James Carville.

Let me start with you, John. What do you think of what Joe Biden said about Paul Ryan in that little clip and that was only a few weeks ago?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, it's a preview of things to come, no question. Up to this point Mitt Romney has pursued a general strategy of attack and distract. He hasn't proposed new policies.

Now with Paul Ryan, maybe the first nominee in history to outsource in effect his policy shop (ph). And that Ryan plan he has been rewarded for his courage into put a specific policy plan on the table, 73 pages, 37 footnotes.

But I'll tell you this, all that now is attached to the nominee. So we really have at this point a choice election. It is a very different vision. I think this pick invigorates the Republican base. Paul Ryan is one of the smartest Republicans nationally. He's been the intellectual leader of the Congress for all time. I think it's a bold pick but it's a risky pick also though and that Biden clip is a sign of the debate to come in the country, a healthy debate I think.

BLITZER: I think it's going to be a healthy debate, because two very different economic visions for the future of the United States.

James Carville, you're here with us. I want to play another clip. This was about a year or so ago after a special election in New York State. The Democratic person won for a Congressional seat. At that moment, there was sort of a meeting, if you will, a chance meeting between Paul Ryan and your former boss, the former president of the United States Bill Clinton and what they said was caught on camera.




REP. PAUL D. RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I'm doing great.

CLINTON: It's good to see you.

RYAN: Good to see you, too.

CLINTON: I'm glad we won this race in New York but I hope the Democrats don't use it as an excuse to do nothing.

RYAN: It's going to sink into paralysis is what's going to happen. You know the math. We knew we were putting ourselves out there, but you've got to get out there, got to get this thing moving.


BLITZER: You hear the former president saying to Paul Ryan if you want to talk about it, give me a call. He said, sure, I'll call you. They both lamented the fact that there could be paralysis in Washington James. But guess what, in the year that has followed that little exchange, there's been paralysis here in Washington.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that Ryan, as the vice president pointed out, he's a bright guy. He's an engaging guy. He's interested in policy. President Clinton is obviously a bright guy who's engaged in policy and will probably have a really interesting discussion here.

My sense here is that the Democrats are going to hit this thing pretty hard and pretty early. It's going to be interesting to see how it gets framed, how it plays out. There's some stark contrasts between what Governor Romney has proposed and what Congressman Ryan has proposed.

Governor Romney has pledged to not let defense spending go below 4 percent of GDP and Ryan wants to keep defense spending and all the discretionary spending I think at like 3 or 4 percent of GDP. So the Democrats are going to hit that hard. They are going to hit all the distribution tables pretty hard. It's going to be an interesting time between now and the convention to see what happens here.

BLITZER: Let me bring Ari Fleischer in for a moment.

Ari, you know Paul Ryan. You've worked with him over the years. He's obviously a very, very smart guy. Is he going to -- on these economic issues, is he going to dominate? Is he going to overshadow Mitt Romney?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. Vice presidents never overshadow the president when it comes to policy and this type of thing. When you look at the Romney plans, so many of them are actually based both on Medicaid and Medicare on big significant reforms to stop the red ink. From a policy point of view, it's been one of the least focused on parts of the campaign.

What I think this fundamentally does, is it changes the race into a four word summary. Three of the words are Latin, reform versus status quo. If you're Mitt Romney, that is a strong new position to be in in that race. Because what it does is it reenergizes the race and makes it much more like 2010 excitement model the Republicans had when they swept Washington as opposed to the way this race seemed to be going of late, big decision, big choice. Some controversy downsized to it as well. I think this is a fabulous choice for Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: A lot of Republicans will certainly agree with you. We'll see what happens over the course of the next 87 days between now and November 6th.

We have dug deep. We're taking a closer look to see what Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate has actually said in recent weeks about his now known running mate Paul Ryan. We'll play some of the clips for you. Stand by. We're awaiting this announcement from Mitt Romney. The vice presidential choice has been made.


BLITZER: Momentarily, you're going to see the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his now known vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan go up to those microphones over there. Romney will make the official announcement that Paul Ryan will be his running mate.

The campaign issued a press release about an hour or so ago making it all official. We've known though for several hours that it is, in fact, Paul Ryan. It will be a Romney Ryan ticket. We've got full analysis coming up here on CNN.

I want to play this little clip because back in June, Mitt Romney had a little rope line conversation with reporters and they spoke about a vice presidential running mate. Let me play this for you.


QUESTION: What's the best piece of advice on those rope lines that you think you received from somebody?

ROMNEY: Stop trying to be like yourself. Be someone else. Just don't be you, just kidding. Again, I didn't get any of it today on the rope line today in Iowa. But in Wisconsin I get a lot of people saying Paul Ryan is your VP. In Ohio I got Rob Portman. I got a very myriad of ideas depending on the state I'm in, which should not be surprising.


BLITZER: If you can read along, that was on the plane talking about rope line experiences. When he's in Ohio a lot of folks like Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio. When he's in Wisconsin, a lot of folks like Congressman Paul Ryan.

Let's bring in David Gergen who's watching all of this unfold.

Give us a little historic perspective on this bold decision by Mitt Romney to select 42-year-old Paul Ryan, David.

GERGEN: This is a decision that is very contrary to most historic positions about the vice presidency. First, normally you announce the vice presidency on a day when you're going to get maximum prime time exposure. Here he is on Saturday morning when you often minimize things by announcing at that hour.

Typically, the candidate -- historically, the candidate who goes to the center when he chooses his vice president. Here Mitt Romney has gone to his right. Typically a presidential candidate tries to choose a safe choice. One would have thought that Mitt Romney of all people, who has run an extraordinary safe, cautious campaign would try to play it safe but he has rolled the dice.

As everyone is saying, this is a big gamble for him. It's going to revive the Republican Party, the spirits of the Republican party. They were worried that this campaign was starting to drift downhill. They are going to be fired up about it.

The real test is going to be over time. Whether in fact this is going to be an opening for the Democrats to change the subject away from jobs yet once again and now go after Medicare, Medicare proposal from the Republicans.

BLITZER: Didn't necessarily work out, David, all that well for the Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. They tried to do that in a lot of these House races and they got walloped.

GERGEN: They did. They wanted to come back to this issue. Nancy Pelosi has wanted to come back to Medicare. I do think that there is a CNN poll, Wolf, from last summer asking about Republican Medicare proposals that was pretty soundly rejected. The numbers were something like 58-35 against the Republican Medicare proposals. We'll have to see how it plays out, but there's no question for Democrats.

This opens up a new fresh line of attack they have been going after using their ads to go after Romney all his personal stuff, his background which he has not handled very well. They were starting to run out of ammunition on the Democratic side. Now they've got some fresh ammunition to lob. We'll see. In the short-term, I don't think there's any question. I think the Republicans are really going to be revised but we'll have to see how it plays over time.

BLITZER: I agree, certainly coming on the heels of these most recent national polls, not only our CNN ORC poll but other polls this week released as well, the (INAUDIBLE) poll, the Fox news poll showing that the president was building up a significant lead nationally among registered voters. This will certainly give a lot of boost to the Romney campaign.

Let's take another quick break. We'll continue our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: We've got breaking news. You're looking at live pictures. That's the podium where Mitt Romney momentarily will show up, announce that Paul Ryan is his running mate. It will be a Romney/Ryan ticket versus an Obama/Biden ticket, 87 days to go until the November 6th election here in the United States.

We know that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have established a close personal relationship and that was underscored on April 1st of this year, April fool's day when Paul Ryan played a practical joke on the Republican presidential candidate and then later Romney spoke about it. April Fool's joke.

You see Paul Ryan over there laughing. They bring Mitt Romney into a room over there. They are getting ready for a big crowd. You know what, there are three staffers standing by. That was very funny, a little practical joke. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You know, Romney himself, particularly when he was younger was considered quite a prankster, so he probably appreciated that. People in the campaign have told me that they have established a really good personal rapport. Romney also established a personal rapport with Tim Pawlenty, though, I might add.

One Republican strategist close to the campaign said something really telling to me, which is that he said that Paul Ryan is the kind of guy that Mitt Romney would have hired at Bain Capital, that he's a smart, young thinker with new ideas. Those are the kinds of people that Mitt Romney used to like to bring into Bain Capital and he just hired him to be on the ticket.

BLITZER: There you see the former governor of Virginia, George Allen. He's running for the Senate. The Republican -- he's already there in Norfolk, Virginia awaiting the arrival of the motorcade. I think the motorcade has just arrived bringing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan presumably to this event. Candy, you wanted to weigh in.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, yes, I think this is a bold choice as a number of people have said. But the idea that Mitt Romney can't make those sort of defies what he did for a living and that was risk. He took high risks in some of these investments that he did. Some of them paid off, some of them didn't. So he is a risk taker when he needs to be.

Clearly, he thought he needed to be. I just wanted to read you one quick e-mail I got back with a Democrat around the Obama campaign. Said how do you argue this, Ryan, same argument, favors the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. Just add in seniors in the fore. It's the same argument now; we're just on steroids.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by for a moment.

When we come back, Bill Bennett is going to be joining us. He was Paul Ryan's mentor when Paul Ryan finished college. One of the first jobs he did get was over at Empower America. He worked with Jack Kemp, the late congressman from New York state and Bill Bennett, Bill Bennett standing by to share some thoughts about Paul Ryan.


BLITZER: -- told that the motorcade carrying Mitt Romney to this event here in Norfolk, Virginia, right near the U.S.S. Wisconsin, the battleship commissioned during World War II is there.

Now we're going to be hearing from Mitt Romney soon. He'll announce that Paul Ryan the Republican Congressman from Wisconsin is, in fact, his vice presidential running mate.

Our own Candy Crowley had a chance to reflect with Paul Ryan not that long ago about what it was like growing up, why he went into politics. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN: My grandfather was a doctor; uncle -- I had some doctors in my family. I always looked up to them. And then I got into, you know, chemistry and physics and biology and it really wasn't my aptitude. And I didn't want to take years of that.

And I fell in love with economics. And so I wanted to go into the field of economics and I am a big skier. I was really into skiing at that time. I was really into freestyle skiing, mobile skiing.

And my mom was worried that I -- after college I went to go to do skiing, that it would take two years it would turn into five, ten, whatever years. And so I was offered a job as an economic policy researcher for my home state Senator Bob Kasten at the time. And she really gave me a big nudge to take that job. Because she was worried I would become a ski bum. And that's when I got involved into economics and politics.

Jack Kemp, I ended up working for -- and he was really my mentor along with Bill Bennett. And that's what got me into public policy and kind of is why -- where I am today.

CROWLEY: Economic policy versus skiing. Did you ever regret that decision?

RYAN: Sometimes.


BLITZER: Skiing might be a little more fun but he loves economics. Bill Bennett is joining us on the phone right now. He was what, a 23- year-old kid when he came to Empower America, your think tank. And you began working with him. You gave him some advice about running for office. Didn't you, Bill?

BILL BENNETT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): I did. I did. He called me when he thought about running, Wolf. And he said, I've got to ask you first, does this pass the laugh test if I run for Congress? I said absolutely. And I said you'll do well. That you'll win.

And he's a very hard worker. He worked for Jack Kemp in the economics area but he did a lot of work with me, too. We worked a lot on that welfare issue leading up to 1996, Wolf, which you've been talking about lately.

But a year ago, and almost to the day we were together in Colorado last year hiking. And I was trying to encourage him to run for president. He said he wouldn't do it, there's a bunch of committee work and family. But he said -- that I -- supposing you're offered the second spot, he said I would think very seriously about that. I probably would -- would accept that.

BLITZER: Why would he do that? Why would he not run for the Republican presidential nomination but he would in fact, accept the vice presidential second slot if you will. What was his explanation for that, Bill? BENNETT: Well, other commitments, the budget committee work he's done. Again, family was an issue. But I mean, look at the time factor, Wolf. You know look how long we've been looking at Mitt Romney and the other candidates for president as opposed to the vice president schedule. Here it is mid-August. It's a matter of two months, two-and-a-half months of hard work on the campaign trail as opposed to more than a year, a year-and-a-half.

And again, that work on the budget committee would have been sacrificed. That's very, very important to him.

BLITZER: A lot of us who knew Jack Kemp -- unfortunately he passed away prematurely -- obviously thought of him as what we used to call a compassionate conservative. How would you compare Paul Ryan and Jack Kemp?

BENNETT: Well, I think they are very similar. And look, people have written articles about Paul saying he is the -- the next Jack Kemp. If you listen to Paul's approach, his style, it's not bare teeth. You know he's -- he doesn't do brass knuckles, or bare knuckles. He is without guile. He's straightforward, he's agreeable. You see him in these debates with Chris Van Hollen and other people.

You played a little excerpt of you conversations of pictures with President Obama -- always polite, always courteous. He said I very much like the idea of President Obama, this man becoming the President of the United States. But I just don't like the ideas of President Obama.

He is an extremely reliable person but also I think an extremely decent person. A lot of goodwill in what Paul -- Paul Ryan says. It's strong stuff. And I think this choice represents -- I'll agree with the panel -- a bold move, a strong move. And an important decision by the American people about whether to do the responsible thing. And I think the theme of Paul Ryan is do the responsible thing. And he is the guy who has been the herald of fiscal responsibility.

BLITZER: And very briefly, Bill, what does it say about Mitt Romney -- his decision to not go, let's say, with the Marco Rubio, not go with Chris Christie, not go with Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman but to go with Paul Ryan?

BENNETT: It's a decision about the critical choices the country has to make. It's a strong decision. It's a responsible decision. It's a bold decision. I'm glad he made it. And I think he's got the right guy. And I think as this country gets to know Paul Ryan, they are going to really, really like him as I do.

BLITZER: And we're only moments away from the official announcement in Norfolk, Virginia, right near the U.S.S. Wisconsin, the battleship over there. All right, stand by.

And also this note to you, what matters is what you think of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's choice to be the vice presidential running mate. Here is a chance for you, go to Register your vote in our CNN Facebook Q&A. We're going to bring the results later in this broadcast. Stand by.

We're only moments away from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan together -- the running mates. Right here on CNN.


BLITZER: We're only minutes away. You're going to see them both together. Other speakers are beginning to warm up the crowd in Norfolk, Virginia right now outside the USS battleship. The U.S.S. Wisconsin but pretty soon for the first time as running mates we will see them together, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Paul Ryan the vice presidential running mate. Paul Ryan will speak obviously. Mitt Romney will speak. They will both make important statements. But the Romney campaign already has just released some excerpts of what Paul Ryan will say.

And I want to preview a little bit of what we are about to hear from Paul Ryan. Here is -- here is one excerpt. And then I'm going to have Gloria, John and Candy read excerpts that they like as well. I'll pick this paragraph because it's the first paragraph that the campaign released.

Here is what he says about Mitt Romney -- Paul Ryan. "Mitt Romney is a leader with the skills, the background and the character that our country needs at a crucial time in history. Following four years of failed leadership, the hopes of our country, which have inspired the world, are growing dim. And they need someone to revive them. Governor Romney is the man for this moment. And he and I share one commitment. We will restore the dreams and greatness of this country", that excerpt from what Paul Ryan will say.

Candy, give me an excerpt that you like.

CROWLEY: I think something that addresses what we have seen sort of contingent (ph) anecdotally when you're out there and also on the polling that idea that America's best days are done -- that there is just something fundamentally different about America now.

And Ryan will say "I hear some people say that this is just the new normal. High unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is not a new normal. It's the result of misguided policies and next January our economy will begin a comeback with the Romney plan for stronger middle class," et cetera, et cetera.

BLITZER: That's a good excerpt. Gloria, you've got an excerpt that you like?

BORGER: Well, I think this excerpt speaks to the sense that this election is about the future. And that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are actually going to lead on the issues. He said, "We won't duck the tough issues. We will lead. We won't blame others. We will take responsibility. And we won't replace our founding principles. We will reapply them."

So that speaks to the conservatives, the Tea Partiers in the party but also saying, look we're going to take on Medicare. We're going to take on Social Security. We need to fix them and the time is now.

BLITZER: And certainly not - he's not ducking the tough issues, Paul Ryan, he's face like Medicare, a tough issue, very directly, John. Give me an excerpt.

KING: I want to continue on that theme because this is the challenge for now the Romney/Ryan ticket. Because as you heard from the Democrats say. They're going to say cut spending, cut the social safety net, cut student loans, hurt Medicare. Here is what they're going to say back and here's what Paul Ryan says.

"We need -- we can turn this thing around. Real solutions can be delivered but it will take leadership and the courage to tell you the truth." Their point is going to be essentially that you had this man elected President Obama is a transformational leader who promised to change Washington, who promised to deal with the big issues. And they are going to make the case, whether it's Medicare, whether it's Social Security, whether it's the budget deficit, whether it's immigration that the President has been in office now for three and a half years, where is his plan.

So this is going to be a -- if you think our proposals are controversial, Mr. President, why haven't you dealt with it yourself.

BLITZER: All right, everybody stand by. You're seeing George Allen; the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Virginia is warming up the crowd. He will be facing Tim Kaine the former Governor of Virginia himself, a tough race over there.

We're going to try to find out when exactly Mitt Romney decided that Paul Ryan should be his running mate; why he went against some of the others who were front-runners at least for the time being.

We'll take a quick break.

We're getting ready to see Paul Ryan standing next to Mitt Romney, the Republican ticket -- momentarily.

GEORGE ALLEN (R-VA), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: -- to our national defense and devastating job losses here in Virginia. Yet some see it --


BLITZER: All right, you're watching there live pictures from Norfolk, Virginia; George Allen is warming up the crowd right now. He's the Republican candidate for senate. He's facing a tough challenge from Tim Kaine; Virginia -- key battleground state. One of the reasons why Mitt Romney has decided to make his dramatic announcement for his vice presidential running mate in Virginia is because it is so important in this electoral contest -- Electoral College contest.

Let's go to Jim Acosta. He's in Norfolk watching all of this unfold. We're getting more information I think Jim, on when Mitt Romney decided Paul Ryan is the man.

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. And it's very interesting to report this. A senior Romney adviser just confirmed to me a few moments ago that Mitt Romney made this choice, decided to pick Paul Ryan as his running mate on August 1st. So that was nearly two weeks ago he made this decision.

Obviously the former Massachusetts governor has a heck of a poker face because he was able to keep it secret for so long. But what is also interesting about that August 1st date, it's the day after his foreign trip, which by a lot of people's estimates didn't go spectacularly well.

So perhaps Mitt Romney came back and was starting to think ok, it's time to change the narrative away from that foreign trip and back to what he wants this campaign about, which his campaign advisers say will be about big ideas and big contrasts.

Another Romney adviser also tells me, Wolf, about the timing of today. Why today? They say, yes, the Olympics -- that is going on this weekend. A lot of people are going to be watching on the Olympics. But they also wanted to capitalize on that moment. They thought, well there are going to be a lot of people watching TV and so perhaps they might flip over and watch what is going on with this vice presidential selection. Also they wanted to dominate the news cycle of the weekend, this adviser tells me, and dominate the news cycle heading into next week.

They say in this 24/7 news cycle sometimes Wolf, you have to pull some surprises to get a lot of people's attention. And I think it's safe to say that's what they did here this morning.

I can also tell you that Paul Ryan will be here with his family when this event gets started. We're expecting that at the top of the hour. But as you know, this was a big audible that the Romney campaign pulled in terms of putting this together this morning.

And so it's possible that this may happen maybe a little bit after 9:00. But we think at the top of the hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very soon -- only moments away. It's a -- pretty huge crowd, a lively crowd there. Tell us a little bit about what we're seeing. We see a lot of people. But give us your thoughts -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Wolf, this is definitely one of the most energetic crowds that I've seen covering the Romney campaign so far. And just from a stagecraft standpoint there's not much better that you can do at this point than having a U.S. battleship behind you -- the battleship Wisconsin is positioned there.

The Romney bus is there just in front of the battleship. And on that bus, this is a brand-new wrap on that bus, says the "Romney plan for a stronger middle class". As James Carville has been telling us, this campaign will be about the middle class. And then just at the bottom of the bus, it talks about "More jobs, more take home pay".

That is the message that the Romney campaign is trying to drive home. That voting for Mitt Romney, voting for Paul Ryan this fall will help you in your pocketbooks. It will put more money in your wallets. Now how is that going to happen? The Romney campaign says it's all about tax cuts. Mitt Romney is talking about tax cuts as part of his big economic plan. I think we're going to be hearing more about that this morning as well as paying attention to the national debt.

Now Democrats will say, hey, wait a minute, the two don't go together. You can't have massive tax cuts the way the Romney campaign is talking about it and reduce the deficit at the same time. The Romney campaign says yes, you can. And that is a contrast, that's a debate we're going to be having this fall.

But yes, this is one of the larger events we've seen in some time. And the crowd is certainly excited. They had a whole slew of Virginia officials come through just a few moments ago including, as you mentioned, a few seconds ago the former United States senator George Allen, who, of course, is running in a hotly contested race this fall -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Against Tim Kaine in Virginia; that's a real battle under way, you know. And it's a big crowd but there is some space if folks still want to try to get in and see history unfold. There is some space right there. You can see it in Norfolk and watch what's happening live. You can obviously see it right here on CNN.

We'll take another quick break -- the breaking news coverage. The Romney/Ryan ticket will be displayed momentarily.


BLITZER: All right. We're waiting for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to get up on the stage. There are some preliminary speakers, I believe the governor of Virginia, Bob McDonald, he's going to be speaking next.

But let's go to the White House right now. Our own Brianna Keilar is standing by. Brianna, you've been speaking with Democrats close to the Obama campaign. What do they think about this decision by Mitt Romney to name Paul Ryan as his running mate?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are salivating, to put it in a term from one Democrat that I spoke with. We're waiting to hear officially from the campaign. The campaign -- the Obama campaign waiting until the announcement is made.

But all along as Mitt Romney has considered his possibilities for a vice presidential pick, the sense was that with Paul Ryan there was a big vulnerability, obviously, because of the Ryan budget. And talking to Democrats, one of the things they point to is that special election in upstate New York last year that got so much attention. It was a seat in the 26th congressional district that was won by a Democrat, Kathy Hochul. It was normally pretty safe for Republicans and that race ended up being almost entirely a referendum on the Ryan budget.

So what we're expected to see once the announcement is made and the Obama campaign really starts to message is micro targeting. They will be looking at constituencies that really matter and they'll be making the case that if you look at the Romney/Ryan budget as they put it, this is going to hurt you, women; this is going to hurt you, the youth vote; this is going to hurt you, the Hispanic constituency. This is going to be the message that they will be taking.

And the other thing, the sort of caveat here Wolf, is that come September when President Obama has to start detailing what some of these spending cuts might look like because of the spending cuts that are set to kick in at the New Year, that may leave him open a little bit -- a little vulnerable because those spending cuts may help the Romney campaign. So they're going to go -- the Obama campaign is going to go full bore to really set the message on these spending cuts as they see them under the Romney/Ryan budget -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Right. They're studying -- they're studying Paul Ryan closely over at Obama campaign headquarters, certainly at the White House, Democrats all over the country. This is going to be a fascinating debate between Joe Biden, the vice president and Paul Ryan, the vice president want-to-be.

Brianna, stand by.