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Discussion of Ryan as Romney's Running Mate; Interview with David Axelrod

Aired August 12, 2012 - 12:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: A dynamic decision that will shake up the race one way or the other.

Today, it is Romney/Ryan, a little known seven-term congressman from Wisconsin catapults into the national arena.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: We won't duck the tough issues. We will lead. We won't blame others. We will take responsibility. We won't replace our founding principles. We will reapply them.


CROWLEY: Romney's pick, firing up the base. Our conservation with Romney adviser, John Sununu. And Paul Ryan's counterpart on the House Budget Committee, Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

Then reigniting oppo research with Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod, and Romney adviser Ed Gillespie on why his candidate gambled on a budget wonk best known for a controversial plan to overhaul Medicare.

Then risk versus reward with David Drucker, associate politics editor of Roll Call, and CNN's Jessica Yellin.

I'm Candy Crowley, and this is State of the Union.


CROWLEY: No surprise, President Obama's campaign and other Democrats are wasting no time attacking the new Romney/Ryan presidential ticket. Descriptions we've heard thrown around so far -- wrong, harsh and extreme. Joining me now, former New Hampshire governor and Romney campaign adviser, John Sununu. Welcome, Governor, and good Sunday morning to you.

FORMER GOV. JOHN SUNUNU, R-N.H.: It's nice to be on, Candy. Happy Sunday.

CROWLEY: So let me ask you, this is certainly -- comes as a surprise to the Romney campaign. They certainly knew ahead of time how this would be taken. How do they move against what clearly is going to be an attempt to say, this is a man who wants to fundamentally change Medicare and Social Security, and going back to his record, which is basically seven terms in Congress?

SUNUNU: Well, you know, you've had a lot of discussion on that. I just want to point out that there's another benefit to this, what I think is a great choice, and that is it's going to test the seriousness and credibility of the pundit class in Washington.

These are the folks who are commentators and columnists, and for years have been saying there's nobody who's trying to be bipartisan or nobody who's willing to stand up and make the hard decisions to solve the tough problems. And now Mitt Romney has made a choice of someone who clearly falls in that class, someone who worked with Ron Wyden to put this entitlement reform forward, someone who has been willing over the years to do the hard number crunching and put out specifics on what to do. And now you get what I consider a very hypocritical and self-indicting response, particularly from the liberals, who are saying this is a gamble, or condemn this as a silly move instead of recognizing that this is an attempt to make the debate in the campaign worthwhile and to give the public a solid choice.

There's even one very credible commentator who I think embarrassed herself by saying this created a death wish ticket.

CROWLEY: Well, you're taking me out of context, so I know you will go back, sir, and look at that, because it's not what I said.

SUNUNU: Oh, come on.

CROWLEY: Listen, you know, the fact of the matter is, this is either going to put it the way I put it -- this is either, as seen by conservatives, going to be what begins the march to the White House, or it might be what ends the march to the White House, and we can all talk about it on the 7th. And that is the truth of the matter, is that one way or the other, we're going to look back and know whether it was a good or a bad decision.

So having said that, I think the question now is, what do you do to kind of push back? As you know, the Democrats are already doing to kind of reframe an election and frankly how campaigns run?

SUNUNU: You hope that you can at least clarify for the public where we are today. That's the first step. And we are today with Medicare gutted by $716 billion by Obamacare. The president stole $716 billion from Medicare. That's in the law. That's now.

And secondly, Medicare, by the actuaries at Medicare, will go bankrupt, go broke, in essence out of business by 2024.

Now, there's a lot of folks out there pooh-poohing that that's not a serious issue. That is a serious issue. And so the question is, you now have a choice. With Romney/Ryan, that are willing to talk about those hard numbers and the hard choices you need, or Obama/Biden, who for four years have run away from entitlement reform as fast as you can, have pretended it isn't there. Even for four years refused to put a budget -- to fight to get a budget through the House and the Senate. How can you have a president go through his entire administration without having the guts to stand up for a budget? The difference between the willingness of having people talk about issues like Obama/Biden or having two guys that have a reputation and a willingness to solve problems like Romney/Ryan. That's the choice the public has.

CROWLEY: As you know, the other side will push back and say, within those -- the budgets that have gone up there, but that are obviously have not been pushed for and sometimes have been voted against, have been ways to trim spending in Medicare. They would say without changing benefits. But let me move you on and ask this question --

SUNUNU: But candy --

CROWLEY: Let me --

SUNUNU: Those were budgets that got 414-0 votes in the House and 98-0 votes in the Senate. He couldn't get a single Democrat to support what he was sending up.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, you don't seem to think or agree with the commentary that there is risk to this choice. In fact, I would say that Republicans were some of those pushing the idea that there was a risk to that, saying Mitt Romney is a big risk taker here. Look what he did. He put someone here that's controversial. But you see no risk in this pick.

SUNUNU: I have more faith in the American public than those that see this as a big gamble. I think the American public, when you give them the data, when they see the fact that this country is going down the drain with $16 trillion of debt, when they see Medicare and Social Security on the ropes and about to die if nobody does anything about it, when the young people of America realize that it's their generation that's going to get screwed by the lack of constructive policies coming out of Obama, I think they're going to see this as a choice that wasn't a gamble, but a choice that was a bright line on the difference of how we have to deal with things in America.

CROWLEY: Governor, just quickly, if you look at the groups where Mitt Romney is underperforming, they are minorities and women. What about Paul Ryan changes that?

SUNUNU: Look. I think that women always get looked at as being favorable to the Democratic Party, and there's always great numbers of the Democrats getting better polling out of women early. But I think as you get closer to the election, women start paying attention to the details of what's there and start looking at the fact that their kids and their grandkids will be in serious trouble if these problems aren't solved. And I think you'll see that gap closing tremendously.

CROWLEY: Governor John Sununu in a place very familiar to us. I kind of miss New Hampshire looking at you. Thanks for joining us.

SUNUNU: Thank you. CROWLEY: The line says House Budget Committee chairman looms large on Paul Ryan's resume, so next we'll ask the committee's top Democrat what it's like to work with him.



RYAN: Someone who knows firsthand that all these tax increases coming on our small businesses, all the mandates from Obamacare and Dodd/Frank, someone knowing that the choking red tape that is struggling and strangling and suffocating our successful small businesses is what is keeping us from creating jobs, it is what is keeping us from creating prosperity. This is a man who understands these things.


CROWLEY: Joining me now is Paul Ryan's colleague on the House Budget Committee, Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Very familiar man, somebody that you have worked with. So far, I think your colleagues in the Obama re-elect committee are sort of damning him with faint praise, saying oh, he's genial, but he's wrong.

Tell me what he's like to work with, because so much of what America sees out there today is there's two sides, and they never get together. Have you found that this is a man you could work with?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD.: Well, look, personally, Paul Ryan and I get along very well. We're collegial colleagues. We have very sharp differences, and we express them very clearly, but always in a civil manner. We got together early on when he became chair and I became ranking member, and said, look, we have these very deep differences, and that, of course, is what this campaign will be about, but let's try and express them in a way that actually tries to elevate the debate, because people need to understand exactly what these choices are about. And I do think that in picking Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has crystallized that choice. And I think at the end of the day, when people hear it, that debate is going to help the president in his re- election.

CROWLEY: Well, in fact, isn't this what you all have said all along this was about? The president's folks early on said it's about a choice. It's not about what's going on right now in the economy, specifically. It's about who are you going to choose to move forward with it? And so if they have that choice, then this, you know, one hopes, has the essentials for a high-minded campaign, which you would agree it hasn't been so far.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, this does have now the potential and the opportunity to make this a very sharp choice. And in picking Paul Ryan, what Mitt Romney has done is pick somebody who has an economic plan and a budget plan that is great for people just like Mitt Romney. It's great if you're very wealthy in this country, because it provides you additional tax breaks, but it does so at the expense of everyone and everything else. At the expense of seniors on Medicare who get hit harder, expense of investment in our education system. So that's the choice they're making. And I think what the American people are going to see very clearly is the tradeoffs involved in the decisions we make. Giving tax breaks to the folks at the very top is not a free lunch. It hits everybody else in the country.

CROWLEY: Congressman, do you think there need to be big changes made in Medicare? Not saying what those changes are. But do there need to be big changes made in Medicare?

VAN HOLLEN: We need to build on some of the important changes that were made in Medicare in the Affordable Care Act, which has been totally distorted even this morning by John Sununu. But there are additional measures that should be taken. The big difference, Candy, is that the president's approach and the approach that we in the Democratic Party have recommended is to move Medicare away from a fee- for-service system, which actually increases costs. It does not have enough incentives to contain costs.

The Republican approach is to shift the risk for rising costs onto seniors, which is why seniors will end up having to pay a whole lot more for what they get now in Medicare. And we just don't think that's fair. We don't think it's fair or right to be providing tax breaks for millionaires while you're asking Medicare recipients who have the median income of under $23,000 to have to pay a lot more or get a lot less.

CROWLEY: From what I can tell, the president in his most recent budget called for about a 7 percent decrease in the increase in spending on Medicare. Is it sufficient simply to slow that increase? Because when you look at Bowles-Simpson, that looked at the deficit and the problem with the debt, if you look at a number of economists, they say we cannot sustain these aging baby boomers and continue to pay as we are now. Don't you have to cut that growth, and isn't that the conversation that the Republican ticket is having?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, actually, you can make progress and significant progress in terms of Medicare by reducing the rate of growth, because the whole issue with Medicare, as with the entire health care system, is that health care costs rise very rapidly. And the difference in the approaches is that the president's approach is one that says, let's shift the incentive structure in Medicare away from one that pushes volume of care toward one that does value of care, whereas the Republican approach doesn't address the rise in health care costs. It just shifts those onto seniors in Medicare. And the results is, under the Republican plan, seniors get a much worse deal than members of Congress do. I think that's important for people to understand. What the Republican plan proposes is a health care plan for seniors on Medicare that does not keep up with costs to the extent that the plan members of Congress have.

CROWLEY: The government doesn't pay as much as it does to you all when the price of the premium goes up, is what you're saying.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, under the members of Congress health plan, the health benefit plan, as costs, health care costs increase, the percentage of support from the plan remains the same. The percentage of support, whereas under the Romney/Ryan plan, they disconnect those two. So health care costs will continue to rise, but the voucher seniors get will actually decline relative to those rising costs. And so seniors are stuck holding the bag.

CROWLEY: So after all this -- you know, more than 24 hours now of here he is and here's what he brings to the ticket and here's what he doesn't bring to the ticket and you all, you know, going after him and the Republicans all boosting him up, what's changed in terms of the dynamics of the presidential race?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, first of all, now the debate's been sharpened, because before Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan, clearly Mitt Romney was pursuing a strategy where he thought he was just going to run against the president and sort of the status quo in the country, and the president's made the point from the beginning that he inherited a very bad economy. He's helped turn the corner, but we have a long way to go. And this election is about what's next? What's the future? What are the choices? And so now the Republicans have put in place their plan for the future. And it's a great future if you're someone like Mitt Romney, because the Ryan plan provides not only the existing tax breaks, but doubles down on those tax breaks, and it's all based on this trickle-down theory of economics.

CROWLEY: You don't think the Ryan selection will give Mitt Romney some traction in the polling?

VAN HOLLEN: Oh, I think it will help him among the Republican base. Clearly there's a lot of energy and excitement among the Tea Party base. But this is essentially telling centrists and independent voters to go take a hike, because if you look at the Republican budget, the Ryan budget, this is an uncompromising document. I mean, they rejected every amendment that House Democrats proposed this year. And it was a take-it-or-leave-it approach. And in fact, last summer, of course, they said if you don't take our extreme budget, we're actually going to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States government. So that was the House Republican approach, and that's how they've used their budget.

CROWLEY: Finally, I just want to show you something that was in a CNN/ORC poll. This is Americans and what their opinion is of economic conditions. Only 19 percent said the economy is starting to recover. 41 percent said seems to stabilize fully. Almost 40 percent say it's getting worse. Those are not good numbers for the president.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, the reality is that the numbers have been improving, but they have been improving slowly. And the president --

CROWLEY: (inaudible) because we've seen that confidence drop.

VAN HOLLEN: That may be the case, but the reality is that the president has proposed a plan, jobs initiative. It's actually been sitting in the House of Representatives since September. We voted 37 times to repeal Obamacare, Affordable Care. We haven't voted once on the president's jobs plan, which would increase our investment in our infrastructure, our roads and bridges. And by the way, the Republican plan would dramatically slash that investment even while we have 14 percent unemployment in the construction industry. So this just gets, again, to the choices. They're very clearly spelled out in that Romney/Ryan budget.

And you know, Romney at one point called that budget marvelous. Now he's all in. Now he's 100 percent in, so let's have the debate.

CROWLEY: Sounds like we are going to have it this fall. Thank you so much, Congressman Chris Van Hollen. I'm sorry to bust up your weekend, but we've got to--


VAN HOLLEN: No, it's good to be with you.

CROWLEY: The Obama campaign has already adjusted to Paul Ryan's addition to the Republican ticket. Next, some revised tactics and strategy from the president's senior adviser, David Axelrod.



ROMNEY: We spent too much money. We spent money we didn't have. I think it's not just bad economics to do that, I think it's immoral for us to pass on burdens to the next generation.

And in this critical time, one of the few that stood up and fought for principle and said I have ideas to get America back on track is this person I've chosen to be my running mate.


CROWLEY: Joining me now is David Axelrod, senior adviser to the Obama campaign. David, thanks for joining us.

DAVID AXELROD, SR. ADVISER TO PRES. OBAMA: Sure, Candy. Good to be with you.

CROWLEY: I know that you were with the president yesterday, and on a big day for the Republican ticket. There have also been some sort of famous public scenes, exchanges between the president and Congressman Ryan over health care. The president went to a Republican retreat once and was challenged by Congressman Ryan. What does the president think of him?

AXELROD: Well, I think that he thinks that he is a perfectly genial and bright guy. He just thinks his theory is wrong. I mean, Congressman Ryan is a right-wing ideologue, and that is reflected in the positions that he's taken. You know, the budget that he constructed for the House Republicans that would include trillions of dollars of new tax cuts skewed to the wealthy so that we are giving a millionaire $250,000 tax cuts, while we are cutting college age -- college aid for kids and research and development, and a whole range of things that we need to grow. He disagrees with Congressman Ryan's idea that we should turn Medicare into a voucher program, shifting thousands of dollars ultimately onto the backs of seniors.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about the Medicare program.

AXELROD: Disagrees with Congressman Ryan on a woman's right to choose. Congressman Ryan would ban a woman's right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest. So he is quite extreme. Good, good person, you know, genial person, but his views are quite harsh.

CROWLEY: OK, then let me ask you about this a bit. You describe him as extreme, so I want to take you back to a December 15th, "Wall Street Journal" op-ed which the congressman wrote along with Senator Ron Wyden, who is a member of your party, and who is seen certainly as a moderate to liberal Democrat. And the two of them together came up with a plan to help save Medicare, and they wrote, "Our plan would strengthen traditional Medicare by permanently maintaining it as a guaranteed and viable option for all our nation's retirees." So this extreme plan has been signed on to, and one of the authors of it is a member of your own party. So why is that extreme?

AXELROD: Well, I just disagree with Senator Wyden on this, and Congressman Ryan, and so have most of the experts who have looked at this, who have said the way this thing is constructed, that Medicare would be in a death spiral under this plan, and that ultimately it would raise costs on seniors by thousands of dollars.

So, you know, that -- I mean, the truth is, Candy, that this is the second iteration of Congressman Ryan's attempt to do away with Medicare. He did this in the last budget as well, and Newt Gingrich called it right-wing social engineering, and he was right about that. The way -- what we need to do is strengthen Medicare. The president has already lengthened the life of Medicare by eight years. He is going after waste, fraud and abuse. He is promoting better delivery of care, and these are the ways to save Medicare, not by a Trojan horse that ultimately will spell its demise.

CROWLEY: David, you know, waste, fraud and abuse, as you know, is often used sometimes when people need to cut things out of a budget and to look like there's savings. If you could name me the one thing President Obama has done over the course of the first three and half years that you think will save Medicare in the years ahead, knowing that the baby boom is aging, what has he done?

AXELROD: Well, Candy, first of all, you and I should not -- we should leave it to the experts to say that the Congressional Budget Office said what President Obama has done already has added eight years to the life of Medicare. What Romney and Ryan propose --

CROWLEY: Is that sufficient, do you think?

AXELROD: -- would end -- no. We have to do more, and--

CROWLEY: Like what? AXELROD: -- in the budget he does -- he -- in his budget, he does more in terms of delivery of services and how that is done. He does ask a little more of upper-income seniors. And in terms of waste, fraud and abuse, you are right, people always say it, but this administration has done it. He has increased health care prosecutions, fraud -- health care fraud prosecutions by 75 percent, recovered tens of billions of dollars.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, turn you just a little bit, and ask you whether you think that this choice by Mitt Romney has shaken up the race, and in what way?

AXELROD: I think it has helped further define the race. I don't think it has shaken up the race, because Governor Romney has embraced many of the positions that Congressman Ryan espouses, extreme as they sound. I mean, he is for the trillions of dollars of tax cuts for millionaires.

CROWLEY: David Axelrod, senior adviser to the Obama campaign, thanks for joining us this morning, David.

AXELROD: All right. Great to be with you, Candy. Thank you.

CROWLEY: In a moment, the view from the other side. We will talk to Romney campaign senior adviser, and former Republican Party Chair Ed Gillespie, after the break.



RYAN: A person must have a bedrock of principles. A moral compass. A vision for their country and an ability to put that vision into place. The man who best embodies those things, the man who has the experience to be that kind of leader we need at this moment is the man standing next to me. His name is Mitt Romney, and he's going to be the next president of the United States.


CROWLEY: I'm joined now by Ed Gillespie, he's a senior adviser for the Romney campaign.

Ed, it's good to see you.


CROWLEY: Big day for the campaign yesterday. We have heard so many people interpret what it meant for the campaign and what it said about Mitt Romney. So why don't you tell us from the inside-out, what was the message you all were trying to send yesterday with this pick?

GILLESPIE: Well, the message was that this is a big election, and it is about big issues, and it needs to be serious. And Governor Romney has been putting forward the Romney plan for a stronger middle class for a long time. Our first ads were about what he would do as president.

And picking Paul Ryan says we are going to choose someone here who has a record of taking on the tough issues, of facing the challenges that we confront as a country and providing solutions and answers to those things.

And I think that it shows that we're not going to, you know, be distracted by some of these little things that the Obama campaign seems to constantly want to be putting out there. We want to talk about the big issue issues facing the country, and I think it was a bold move by Governor Romney.

CROWLEY: That is part of the beauty of this, right, is that you can change the conversation, which had been about, where are your tax returns, it has been about Bain and what the decisions that Bain did or didn't do to folks.

But there has also been this sense that the Romney campaign thought it could go along the whole time going, the economy is bad, the economy is bad, the economy is bad, elect someone else. And that this was a decision that said, I understand, we have got to move this forward.

GILLESPIE: Well, Candy, any presidential election where you have an incumbent president seeking re-election is partly a referendum, it's about what is the performance. And obviously we do have concerns and the country has concerns about the record run of unemployment above 8 percent, about falling incomes, about our debt being downgraded and the massive debt.

But we also have, you know, put forward a solution, and Governor Romney has put forward a solution, and the Romney/Ryan ticket now puts forward, you know, big ideas that I think the American people deserve to take into account for an election.

CROWLEY: We got a look at an internal Romney memo from yesterday with -- here are the possible questions you are going to get about this pick, here is how to answer them. One of them was about, do you sign on to the so-called Ryan budget, just his ideas in particular about Medicare, and the Ryan suggestions for that.

And the internal memo said: "Governor Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president, he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance."

Widely seen as, well, no, we don't actually embrace the Ryan plan. You can't have a guy on your ticket without embracing the fullness of his plan?

GILLESPIE: Well, look, as Governor Romney has made clear, if the Romney -- I'm sorry, if the Ryan budget had come to his desk as president, he would have signed it, of course. And one of the reasons that he chose Paul Ryan was for Congressman Ryan's willingness to put forward innovative solutions in a budget.

At the same time, it is the Romney/Ryan ticket, and as president, President Romney will be putting forward his own budget. But in terms of, for example, the Medicare proposal that Senator Wyden and Congressman Ryan have put together, and the Wyden/Ryan plan, that is something that Governor Romney agrees is an approach we need to take.

We need to save Medicare for future generations, that includes giving an option for people to stay in the current system of Medicare if they choose, or having other options as well, reforms that could save it for future generations.

CROWLEY: And you have heard the Obama campaign argue that this just puts the costs on seniors, it will leave them out there as those premium prices continue to rise. You look at a state like Florida, but there are plenty of other states where senior vote is completely important, you understand, Ed, more than anyone, how this kind of thing is so hard to sell to seniors.

You can say all you want, this does not affect those currently on Medicare, it is not how it comes across. We have already seen commercials on the Ryan plan with him pushing an old woman pushing in a chair off of a cliff.

This is also a third rail, how do you fight that on the campaign trail?

GILLESPIE: Candy, you know, the campaign of hope and change of 2011 has diminished to the campaign of fear and smear in 2012.

We understand that. We understand that they are going to try -- look, the other side has accused Governor Romney of being a felon, they have accused him of being responsible for the tragic death of a woman. They are going to do all kinds of things to try to scare voters.

We believe that voters will look at the facts.

CROWLEY: Ed Gillespie, Republican strategist for the Romney campaign, thanks for being here, Ed.

GILLESPIE: Thanks for having me.

CROWLEY: We'll check the day's other news in a moment, including a major power gram - power grab in the Middle East.


CROWLEY: Here's a check of today's top stories. Opposition forces in Syria reported at least 53 deaths in fighting today, including 10 young men rounded up and executed in the city of Homs.

In Turkey, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. will work with its allies to develop contingency plans in the event the Syrian regime collapses.

A major shake-up in Egypt. State-run Nile reports Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has reversed a constitutional degree that limited his powers and gave legislative authority to the military. The president also ordered his country's defense minister, who recently met with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and another top general, to retire.

Iran's news agency reports rescue operations have ended just one day after a pair of strong earthquakes killed at least 250 people and injured nearly 2,000. An Iranian official says 110 villages in the northwest part of the country were damaged.

A man in civilian clothing opened fire on a base shared by Afghan and NATO forces Saturday, killing three NATO troops. Right now Reuters is quoting an Iranian news agency report that a U.S. soldier was killed by a blast in southern Afghanistan. CNN has not been able to confirm the report.

For the first time, a U.S. Army general is openly announcing she's gay. General Tammy Smith told people on Friday just as she was receiving her promotion. It's been less than a year since the military ended its "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

And in a minute, we'll talk strategy as the presidential campaigns move toward the year's next milestones, the party conventions.



RYAN: We feel, as your fellow citizens, that we owe you a choice. A choice of two futures. We can either stay on the current path that we are on, a nation in debt, a nation in doubt, a nation in despair, a nation with high unemployment, where we're giving our children a diminished future, or we can change this thing and get this country back on the right track.


CROWLEY: We are back with CNN's chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin. Also here, David Drucker, associate politics editor for "Roll Call."

I feel like -- you know that old Senate saying about, you know, all that needs to be said has been said, it's just not everyone has said it.




CROWLEY: Exactly. So let me ask you this first just sort of big question. We've spent all this time, everybody saying here's what it means, here's what it doesn't mean. Has anything fundamentally changed the dynamics of the campaign right now?

DRUCKER: I don't know that the dynamics are changed, but I think that with Ryan's -- with Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan, we know where he wants to go. We know what he wants to do if he wins. And I think it gives us a different picture of Mitt Romney than everybody was assuming, which is that he was risk-averse, that he was a play-it-safe guy.

And even though I don't think that Paul Ryan is necessarily as risky as some people believe, it means that he's willing to do things that didn't fit with the caricature of who he was. And I think that gives us a different window into who Mitt Romney is.

CROWLEY: Sure. I mean, they want it to be -- be seen as a bold choice, and he's not this big, cautious candidate. On the other hand, they are also arguing it's not all that risky. And, you know, let's face it. This is a white guy politician from the Midwest. So it used to be the risk was elsewhere.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Also, at the same time that he's embraced Paul Ryan, that same day he sent out talking points to the campaign surrogate saying, but we're not embracing the budget. Just be clear that Mitt Romney will make his own budget when he's in office. So they're trying to have a little of it both ways.

What it gives them is, first of all, a lot of Mitt Romney looks happy. I mean, he looks pumped.

CROWLEY: Really. He's completely energized. There's nothing like getting a buddy out there. It's true.

YELLIN: That gives them a little bit of energy, at least for a while going into the convention.

DRUCKER: Well, I thought this was very important because at the end of the day, this is still going to come down to Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, and the economy and what they're going to fight over.

YELLIN: Well --

DRUCKER: So if Paul Ryan can give Mitt Romney this kind of boost and give him this kind of agenda direction, he still might lose, but he's not going to win it the other way. The way of saying, well, it's all Barack Obama's fault, just vote for me. He's got to give those swing voters and persuadables something to vote for. And if Ryan helps him do that, it gives him the best opportunity to win even if he doesn't.

YELLIN: I -- the challenge here is that now instead of having a debate about the economy and the jobs, there is the opening for the Obama campaign to make this a debate about what entitlement reform is going to look like.

CROWLEY: America's favorite entitlements, by the way.

YELLIN: Social Security.

CROWLEY: Social Security, Medicare.

YELLIN: Get your hands off my Medicare, right, that kind of thing. So instead of it being purely a referendum on the president's tenure and how he's done with jobs, this has opened up a can of worms into, you know, are they going to limit grandma's ability to get, you know, her health care. CROWLEY: And let me ask you, because we've always talked about the three opportunities particularly for a challenger to kind of break through. The vice presidential selection followed by the conventions, followed by the debates. And it's not that one day changes everything -- usually one day doesn't change anything in a campaign. There are exceptions, but usually. So now he moves forward. He clearly is pumped. It clearly has brought together a lot of folks who were less than enthused on the right with Mitt Romney. What does the convention look like now?

YELLIN: Well, the convention will be very enthusiastic. I mean, I think you have -- tend to have at your convention your most enthusiastic base voters. And they're a lot more excited than they would be with the Ryan pick than they might be, for example, I don't want to be mean to these guys who didn't get picked right now, but the other P-named guys. Their last name. So -- and -- but you do have a slate of two white folks. So you need to mix it up with some other folks who can bring a little color and gender diversity to it.

CROWLEY: And doesn't he have to -- I'm -- we have this poll that I want to show you. It's a CNN/ORC poll. And the question was, who will the economy get better under? If Obama wins, 47 percent of folks said the economy will get better. If Romney wins, 45. So essentially it's a wash right now. So to me, the question is, then why isn't Romney doing better? And I wonder if it isn't in those likability numbers, where people just can't warm up to the guy, and isn't that the job the convention's going to have to do?

DRUCKER: Well, that's going to be part of it. Mitt Romney is going to have to introduce himself to the nation in a way that helps him. He's going to have to talk about his family life, his faith, his business career in a way that's different than what you're hearing from Obama. And by the way, I think what's interesting about whether or not people think the economy's going to get better, I think that's why yesterday you heard Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney saying this is not the new normal. Some people may be saying that this kind of economy is the new normal, we're here to tell you it's not and doesn't have to be. And there's a reason they said that. Because if the country believes that, well, this is just the way it is no matter who's in office, it makes it harder for them to decide to make a change.

CROWLEY: Yes. No, I think that's a dangerous number. Because that was Romney's sort of edge. Oh, yes, he has better ideas. And now he's lost it.

DRUCKER: They have to believe it can get better under Romney. If they think it's the same no matter who's in office, then it's a much tougher sell.

YELLIN: The challenge with the Ryan pick is that the Obama team has up until now built this image of Mitt Romney as this rich guy who, you know, the personality image, just wants to improve taxes for people like himself. So you've got that story line. Now they have this policy piece, this narrative about entitlement reform that they can just build on that, and say, see, he's picked this guy who wants to do exactly what this Mitt Romney fellow we told you about is interested in doing. And Paul Ryan's plan is the policy to implement what Mitt Romney the character we've built wants to do. And that is what I think you're going to see the Obama team doing from here to the convention.

CROWLEY: The rhetoric sounds very similar. I talked to a Democrat yesterday, you know, in and around the campaign, who said but this is just what we said before on steroids now. Because we've got, you know, Paul Ryan just underscores everything we've said about Mitt Romney. Can they make that case?

DRUCKER: This is where they were going. And I think it really depends on how voters feel about the economy and unemployment and where we are in September and October about that.

Look, every time you have a challenger making a case, you have the incumbent, if things aren't going well for him, and we've seen this before, say oh, my God, the other guy is so extreme. Look at all these horrible things they're going to do. But if the country is inclined to make a change, usually what they'll say is, look, none of you guys are perfect. It can't be as bad as you say. We're willing to give the other guy a shot.

If this was not an economy that was in trouble, the president would have much more of an ability to have mileage with these arguments. He's got the chance to do it, but when you're running with 8.3 percent unemployment potentially, and anemic economic growth, it means that there are two competing considerations voters are going to make. They might side with the president and say, yes, don't touch Medicare. But they might say, you know what? These people want to fix things. I don't know if we agree, but we're willing to give them a shot. The opportunity's there for the Republicans because of where the economy is and how people have felt about the president's economic stewardship.

CROWLEY: Jessica, you get our last 15 seconds. And let me just say, who next week goes up in the polls as a result of this? Because we know Democrats were, quote, salivating.

YELLIN: Oh, I think Romney gets a bump out of this. I mean, Paul Ryan is an enormously likable guy. He's been very charismatic on the stump. He'll get a bump out of it.

CROWLEY: And by the way, it's been an infomercial the whole time, right? Here he is, here's what we say, and so they've got a lot of play.

YELLIN: Yes, we'll see how long it lasts, is the way these things go.

CROWLEY: Exactly. David Drucker, Jessica Yellin, thank you very much.

It's probably a safe bet that Paul Ryan's done one thing no other would-be vice president would. Stay there and we'll show you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: It is day two, and soon-to-be rally two on this day for Mitt Romney and his new running mate, Paul Ryan. This is High Point, North Carolina. North Carolina, hugely important. CNN is following this, and we'll bring you that rally when the two of them show up.

In the meantime, the conclusion now of our getting to know online segment with Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. We talked to him about a year ago and had the chance to ask some not-so- hard-hitting questions like what's your favorite food. But in Ryan's case, it's not what you eat, it's what you drive.


CROWLEY: Let me ask you about a picture, and again for those of our viewers who are not familiar with it, we want to put up this picture. And it's you driving the Oscar Mayer wiener mobile. One of your jobs. So we'd like to know how that job was, actually.

RYAN: Well, my aunt was a secretary. Oscar Mayer is based in Madison. She was a secretary for Oscar Mayer for about 35 years. And that's how I got acquired with Oscar Mayer, the company. And I worked as a salesperson for the summer for Oscar Mayer in-between college sessions. And it was a great job. I actually sold Oscar Mayer products to northern Minnesota. And meat managers in northern Minnesota are up early in the morning, then they kick off at about 3:00 to go fishing. So you have got to be in the stores by about 4:00 in the morning until about 3:00 in the afternoon, and then like those guys, I'd just go out fishing, mostly for walleye in northern Minnesota, which was a great summer. Good job.

CROWLEY: And finally, we heard that your original plan was that you were going to become a doctor. So I want to know what happened there. And we also read that your mom gave you a helping hand in getting into politics, because she was afraid you'd become a ski bum.

RYAN: Yes, that is -- there is some truth to that. My grandfather was a doctor, uncle, I have some doctors in my family. I always looked up to them. And then I got into chemistry and physics and biology, and it just 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, mogul skiing. And my mom was worried that if I after college went to go do some skiing, that it would take two years, would turn into five, ten, whatever years. And so I was offered a job as an economics policy researcher for my home state senator, Bob Cassin (ph) at the time, and she really gave me a big nudge to take that job, because she was worried I'd 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 it's why I'm where I am today.

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

RYAN: Sometimes.



CROWLEY: We want to ask him that one again in a couple of weeks. You can watch more of our getting to know interviews at Thanks so much for watching "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you missed any part of today's show, you can buy it on iTunes. "THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER" starts right now.