Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Union

Interview With John Thune; Interview with Ed Gillespie; Interview with David Axelrod; Interview with Ron Johnson; Interview with Ron Kind

Aired August 12, 2012 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: 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 South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune.

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 Ron Brownstein of the National Journal, and CNN's Dan Lothian.

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

The campaign trail is most often a series of mind-numbing days interrupted by the ones you will never forget, the days when you know that one way or another something has changed, and Saturday was one of those days for Mitt Romney.


MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What works here, what works around the world is free people pursuing their dreams. We want those dreamers here. We can accomplish our dreams.


CROWLEY: Because as much as voters learned about Paul Ryan yesterday, they may have learned more about Romney first and foremost that this most cautious of candidates will take a big risk for the potential of a big payoff.

At first blush this much could be said for the Ryan pick, it appears to have brought home conservatives. Joining us now for a conversation about hat more is Senator John Thune of South Dakota. Senator, thanks for being here. And that really is the first question. We had seen -- has some hesitation, some skepticism, whatever you want to call it by conservatives, who by the way very publicly pushed for Paul Ryan to be the pick. Do you think that this settles conservative doubts or hesitations about Mitt Romney?

SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, good morning, Candy. What I think it does is it certainly demonstrates that Governor Romney is very serious about doing big things for the country, and wants this campaign to be about the big things, and in a discussion about the future of the country, it is a decisive pick, it's a bold pick as you mentioned. And I congratulate him for it, because I think that Paul Ryan represents the kind of leadership that people in this country are hungry for, and his efforts to not only define the issues that we need to face as we get into the days and the weeks and the months and the years ahead, but also to come up with solutions to those issues, is something that I think that will serve as a great asset to Governor Romney and the campaign.

But it clearly is something that I think conservatives are receptive to. Paul Ryan is viewed favorably out there among the conservatives and as you mentioned there are a number who were encouraging Governor Romney to make a pick like that. And I think Paul Ryan represents everything that conservatives hoped for in terms of a real contrast as we head into the fall campaign.

CROWLEY: Is it not at the same time a pick by Mitt Romney that shows he agrees with some of the critics up to now that have said that Romney thought he could run a campaign based solely on the Obama economy?

THUNE: Well, I think that a lot of us, and many of us who support Governor Romney, believe that this is a referendum on the Obama economy. The Obama economy -- and again to be fair to the president, he inherited a bad economy, but after three-and-a-half years of his policies, things are much, much worse. His policies have made the economy worse. We have 42 now consecutive months of unemployment above 8 percent, 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, wages are down, health care costs are up, college tuition costs are up, fuel costs are up. The economy as a whole is really in very, very rough shape. And I think that is something that this president has to own. It is his economy.

But I do believe that Governor Romney in making this pick has said, I'm going to take the game to my opponent. I'm not going to sit back and just run the clock out and hold the ball, I think he's made it very clear that this is going to be a campaign about big issues and about a very different vision, contrasting vision for the future of this country.

So I think it is good for Governor Romney. I think it demonstrates leadership and decisiveness on his part, but more importantly it's good for the country to have this debate.

CROWLEY: Do you agree that there is a risk to this pick when you look to the general electorate, and how would you describe that risk?

THUNE: Well, you know, I think that it is going to be described that way. Obviously, people are going to say that this represents, you know, a direction for the country in picking somebody like Paul Ryan who is very identified with certain policy prescriptions for Social Security and Medicare for example, and people are going to describe it that way, but I don't view it that way at all. I think it is a risk for President Obama to have someone like a ticket like a Romney/Ryan ticket where you have actually laid out definitive solutions and answers to America's problems. This president has kicked the can down the road on every major issue. He's not somebody who has provided the leadership that the country needs to get the economy back on track and get people back to work or to deal with this trajectory that we have right now of year over year trillion dollar deficits.

So I think the risk -- I think this is a bigger risk for the president, because they are going to attack the Romney or the Ryan budget as cutting Medicare, but the president is the only one in this campaign who has cut Medicare to the tune of $700 billion. So I think that there is a considerable risk for the president to have this ticket opposing them in the fall campaign.


On the other hand, you know how elections work. They are not always the best formats for lengthy discussions about line by line bills and what it would and wouldn't do. And if you look at history in terms of candidates who talk about privatization of Social Security, partial privatization, who look at Medicare and say, we have to change the way we are doing business, that is almost certain to be something that will shake up seniors, even as you try to tell them it is not going to affect them, because they are already receiving benefits.

How would you suggest that they approach what is already the criticism that Paul Ryan simply fits in with Mitt Romney's plan to make the middle-class and now add seniors to that, take all of the burden on?

THUNE: Well, I think that you always have the challenge when you are explaining something like that to be able to help people out there, American public, understand, educate them on what is at stake. I think that the biggest risk for the country is doing nothing. That is what ends Medicare as we know it is doing nothing. You have to have a plan to fix it. And I think that Paul Ryan, to his credit, whether you like it or not, has come up with a plan that puts Medicare on a more sustainable fiscal path going forward.


CROWLEY: Do you think it could cost them Florida? THUNE: Now are there going to be independents across the country -- well, I don't think so. I think that frankly if you get out to explain that and people understand. You know they always talk about Florida, but senior citizens, people over the age of 55 are not going to be impacted by this, it's people younger than the age of 55 who would have more options and more choices and greater competition and hopefully more affordable health care in the future.

So I think part of his explaining it, and there is no better person to do that than Paul Ryan. He is the man who best understands these who best understands the budgetary implications of doing nothing as well as laying out a specific plan that will save and strengthen Medicare for the future. So I think that this is a very -- it is really a strong move by Mitt Romney. I think it shows his desire to make this campaign about big things as well as to create a very clear distinction and contrast between someone who wants to fix the problems and face the challenges of the future and someone like President Obama who for three-and-a- half years now not only made the matters worse, but has not laid anything forward in terms of a plan to address these big issues.

CROWLEY: You know, if you could give me a quick answer to the following. One of the big hole in the numbers that we see when you look at Mitt Romney's approval rating is women and minorities. Does the addition of Paul Ryan to the ticket add a thing in terms of attracting either one of those demographics?

THUNE: Well, frankly, I think that most women across the country care like everybody does about the issue, and that's jobs and the economy. So if the Romney/Ryan ticket can articulate a clear vision for how they're going to get the economy growing and expanding again and get people, get Americans back to work, I think that will attract the women voters.

I think right now, people are holding back, their waiting for this fall campaign to get under way, and they are going to have a very clear choice in front of them.

CROWLEY: Senator John Thune, thanks for getting up this morning to join us. We appreciate it.

THUNE: Great to be with you. Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan are in North Carolina this morning getting ready for their first rally of the day. Once it gets going, we will take you there live. In the meantime, Congressman Ryan is widely described as a intellectual type, but he can throw a political punch like this one aimed at President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN: He's going to divide and distract this country to win an election by default. And you know what, we are not going to fall for that.


CROWLEY: President Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

AXELROD: 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. That is what we need to do.

Everybody knows that there is a lot of waste there that we can get at, but what we don't want to do is turn it into a bonanza for the insurance companies with the cost of it being borne by senior citizens, and that's what would happen if we followed, if we followed Congressman Ryan's road map.

CROWLEY: Since Romney is at the top of the ticket, as I understand his Medicare proposal right now, Medicare would be one of the choices listed in, along with private plans that would compete with Medicare. Seniors could have their choice, which is not unlike how you all set up health care insurance in the health care bill, so what is so bad about that?

AXELROD: Actually, it is not, because we don't have a public option in the health care bill. But you are taking a system that has fundamentally worked, Medicare, and you are giving people incentives essentially of going to the private health care system. And what is going to happen is the private system will bid and compete for the healthiest, younger seniors, and they are going to leave the sickest and the most needy of seniors in the Medicare program, and it is going to drive costs up for Medicare, and ultimately it is going to destroy the program.

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.

You know, Candy, one interesting thing, Congressman Ryan had a proposal in 2010, if you took Governor Romney's tax returns and applied the changes that Congressman Ryan wanted to make to the tax system, Governor Romney would pay less than 1 percent on his taxes. We know he paid 13.9 percent. How is that going to strengthen our country, strengthen the economy, help the middle class? And so you know, I think they are kindred spirits on some of these policies, and certainly on the social issues, they have come together banning abortion and so on.

CROWLEY: Let me--

AXELROD: But I don't think these are mainstream positions in the country.

CROWLEY: Let me show you our latest CNN/ORC poll, the question was, how are things going in the country today? Right now only about 36 percent of Americans think that things are going well, 63 percent think that things are going poorly, so a 7-point drop since April on whether people think the country is going well. What has happened?

AXELROD: Well, the question is, well, look, we have just come through a catastrophic experience that was brought on by policies that, by the way, Congressman Ryan in his role in Congress embraced in whole. The whole Bush economic...

CROWLEY: Wait, wait, but it had been going...

AXELROD: But let's...

CROWLEY: But this had been going to other way, is what I am saying, like before April, we had been seeing an increasing number of people saying, I think things are going fairly well again, better now, all of the sudden, it has dropped?

AXELROD: But we know that we have experienced some headwinds because of Europe and other factors that have slowed our growth some in the last few months and picked up, you know, jobs -- private sector jobs picked up in the last month.

But here's the point, Candy, you are not reading the entire poll. It also shows that the president lengthening his lead. It shows that people have more confidence in him to fight for the middle class and look for solutions that will strengthen our economy in a way that creates broad prosperity.

Governor Romney's negatives have risen there, because people are taking a good hard look at him and his policies and they've made a decision. So that is the rest of your poll and I think it is significant.

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, right after this break.

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

Ed, it's good to see you.

GILLESPIE: Good to see you, thank 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. The facts by the way, also include...

CROWLEY: Why is it different now, though, because you know so many times -- I mean, I remember during the Mondale campaign as I'm sure you do, that he said, I am going to tell the truth we're going to talk about what we have to do. I'm going to raise taxes. And he lost. So this -- it sounds great, we're going to talk about big ideas and it's a good way to push off some of the stuff that the Obama campaign has gone after you all for, but as a sheer sort of campaign tactic, it seems to me that you all now own as we say the Ryan Plan or are going to have to convince folks that this is not about budget cutting, it's about saving it.

GILLESPIE: Well, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan agree and share a view that we need to make hard choices, and we need to save entitlement programs for future generations. What they are talking about doing, and would actually save Medicare, what the Obama administration has done. One, they raided the Medicare accounts for $716 billion and spent it on the massive increase in government known as Obama care. And two, they are doing nothing to save it for future generations, and Medicare Part A will go bankrupt in 12 years, Candy. And so the fact a is that there is only one ticket that is in favor raiding Medicare to the tune of over $700 billion and allowing it to go bankrupt and another ticket that is for protecting Medicare and saving it for future generations. And that is the Romney/Ryan ticket.

CROWLEY: I want to show you something from our poll. This was taken before Ryan was chosen, at least before we knew he had been chosen. There's some favorables and unfavorables. And what is shows is that the unfavorables have gone up for your candidate from 42 in July to 48 now in where we are now in August. This is a tough number.

Somebody in the campaign once told me, you know, we do need them to like our guy. That hasn't happened. Can you do something to turn that around?

GILLESPIE: Well first of all, of course there have been -- there's been a ton of money spent in the target states by the Obama campaign... CROWLEY: And a ton more left.

GILLESPIE: Governor Romney. We are at a point now where people are starting to pay attention to this race, voters in the middle and the undecideds. I think they're going to see in Mitt Romney someone who is genuinely good person. Over time, people form their own conclusions...

CROWLEY: How? If they haven't so far...

GILLESPIE: Well, I think if you saw him yesterday -- if you saw for example Paul Ryan talking about the governor's record of success in Massachusetts where unemployment went down, household incomes went up, and the credit rating in Massachusetts was upgraded in contrast to the Obama record. When they learn about his success in the private sector helping to create jobs. When they learn what he did in the Olympics to save the Olympics, and when they learn about the kind of family person he is, and those things, I think that the convention will enable us to convey for more of that. But it is worth noting, Candy, that in the process of trying to drive up Governor Romney's negatives that President Obama's negatives went up as well -- when you look at the ballot test, I feel very good about where Governor Romney is today and would much rather play our hand than theirs in this election.

CROWLEY: Next stop, the convention?

GILLESPIE: Next stop -- well, we have a few more stops along the way before the convention.

CROWLEY: You do, but the next big time when folks are looking, what kind of tone do you want to set there? What's the...

GILLESPIE: Oh, I think, you know, we want to make clear we have a plan for the future, that this a future-oriented approach that Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan are putting forth in contrast to kind of the negative campaign. This is a substance-driven campaign versus a fear and smear campaign.

I think the American people are going to see the big choices that are before them and they're going to make the right decisions about what kind of country we want to be and what kind of people we want to be as Paul Ryan said yesterday.

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

GILLESPIE: Thanks for having me.

CROWLEY: Paul Ryan is on the ticket and that means he gets a seat on the Romney campaign bus. They are in North Carolina today, and we will take you there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan are getting ready for their first rally of the day. Our CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta is in Mooresville, North Carolina, it's just north of Charlotte. The day after the ticket comes together, what is the message, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Candy, the message is going to be on the economy. And they are getting into the spirit here at this NASCAR facility just outside of Charlotte. Just behind me is a Mitt Romney racecar that, you know, could very well take the field if it were -- if it were allowed to.

But yes, the message is the economy today. The campaign pointing out in a briefing to reporters earlier this morning, that the unemployment rate here in North Carolina, a state that President Obama won four years ago, is higher than the national average, so expect Romney and Ryan to go after that today. When I saw, Candy, from Mitt Romney is very interesting, I think we are seeing a noticeably looser Mitt Romney since he announced Paul Ryan as his running mate. On the campaign plane last night, Romney was chatting extensively with reporters -- with Paul Ryan at his side, much more so than we have seen earlier in this campaign. But we will have to see how long that lasts.

The campaign is already taking questions about the Ryan budget. Earlier in the morning, campaign spokesman Kevin Madden said to reporters that it is Mitt Romney who is at the top of the ticket, suggesting that the Paul Ryan plan will not be adopted in its entirety by this campaign. And by Mitt Romney if he is elected president.

But one thing that is very interesting is in the coming days, Candy, we will see Paul Ryan basically separating from Mitt Romney and campaigning solo on behalf of this ticket starting in Iowa tomorrow. Kevin Madden told us at a briefing earlier this morning, spokesman for the Romney campaign, we may see Paul Ryan by himself on the campaign trail all the way to the convention, Candy.

CROWLEY: Jim Acosta, thanks very much. We will be checking back in with you.

Up next, though, all things politics, and what a great day to talk about with our CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian, as well as the National Journal's Ron Brownstein.


CROWLEY: Joining me, CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian, also here is CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, he is also the editorial director at the National Journal.

Welcome, both.



CROWLEY: So we have had a busy 24 hours or so.


CROWLEY: Yes, exactly. I want to first put up a number that we put up in error earlier in the show and ask you something about Mitt Romney. This is his favorables and unfavorables before the Ryan pick. His favorables are now down slightly, his unfavorables up after a really long summer of getting pounded.

In part, is that why we got the Ryan choice as early as we did, which is relatively early in the scheme of things?

BROWNSTEIN: In fact, in some polls, some different pollsters are saying that Romney's negatives at this point in the race are the highest they have ever had for a challenger going into their own convention. Look, the vice-presidential pick is usually made for several reasons, obviously personal chemistry between to the two. Ryan is a very dynamic and effective advocate for the conservative view about retrenching the role of the federal government. He is a hero to many on the right. He's probably the closest probably since Jack Kemp in the 1970s. His budget has galvanized Republicans to a great extent than anything since that.

But I think in the end, this was not a pick Romney would have made if he did not feel like he was forced to shake up the race. I mean, this is clearly something that reflects a belief that they need to change the dynamic, that the track they were on was not sufficient to give them a win.

LOTHIAN: I mean, it really seems like it was that Red Bull jolt that they wanted, you know, they were going for, because despite the fact that they have been hammering the president at, you know, his economy, his economic plan is not working, that unemployment still remains high, above 8 percent, the polls show an even race across the country.

The president is slightly up, and now in the most recent poling, the president ahead by 7 points and 9 points. So they really had to do something to shake that race up.

CROWLEY: And you know Mitt Romney well. You covered him when you were in Boston. So you have known him a long time before he went on to the national scene. When you saw this pick, did you think, wow, very un-Romney-like to take something that's so outside of his comfort zone?

LOTHIAN: I think so. I mean, I looked at it and thought it was not a safe move politically. I was thinking something more like, you know, getting someone from Florida or someone from Ohio that could potentially deliver these key battleground states.

But, again, I think it goes back to the fact that he needed to do something to get some attention to shake things up. And as I was talking to someone from his campaign yesterday, they wanted to provide some clarity to this race, and they feel they have done that with this choice.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, personally, you can imagine them connecting very well. I mean, Paul Ryan, as people have said, is the kind of person Mitt Romney might have hired at Bain Capital, I mean, very data-driven, very serious.

But as a political pick, I mean, it is high-risk/high-reward. Clearly it galvanizes conservatives. Clearly it sharpens issues. But it does raise a big question in terms of whether the agenda -- there is an internal contradiction between the modern Republican agenda, and the modern Republican coalition.

The Republican coalition, over the past two decades, as you know, have become increasingly dependent on blue collar and older white voters who don't like government in general, don't like transfer programs, but are pretty comfortable with the middle class entitlements like Medicare and Social Security, are not looking for changes in that.

And now you have a Ryan budget that forces those issues right into the forefront, over roughly...

CROWLEY: It takes you off the economy.

BROWNSTEIN: It does. CROWLEY: Which is what he has spent the last year talking about.

BROWNSTEIN: And brings you into an ideological debate that they feel they can win. And in fact, if you ask people on the broad question, more government or less, is the government too big? You know, the conservative side of that argument usually wins. When you get down to the specifics, it gets much tougher, particularly, as I said, with these blue collar and older white voters who are giving roughly 60 percent of their votes now routinely to Republican presidential and congressional candidates.

But they are very -- polls show they are very resistant to changing Medicare in particular, which they don't view as an entitlement in the same they do, say, food stamps or welfare.

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, I think when you look at for the Obama campaign and for Democrats, this is like Christmas came early for them. They were going to go after Mitt Romney. They were going to attach Paul Ryan to Mitt Romney and everything that he stands for, but now they have him as his V.P. choice. It's a clear fight. They are going after him in a big way and you saw that, rolling out these Web ads and sending emails out to supporters saying that he is a dangerous pick.

CROWLEY: Dan Lothian, Ron Brownstein, stick with us, we'll be right back.

Another quick reminder, we are going to take you to North Carolina shortly for the Romney/Ryan campaign team's first rally of the day.

But next, the racial divide that could sink the Republican ticket.


CROWLEY: We are back with CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

Ron, you wrote a really interesting article about -- we hear about the gender gap and, you know, this kind of suburban (INAUDIBLE), but we're really talking about a huge racial divide. And it brings to mind, I remember looking at Ryan yesterday, thinking, here where Romney has problems, minorities and women, does this bring anything to his side by picking Ryan?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, here is a measure how much the country has changed in our lifetime. Mitt Romney is on track to match the best performance ever in the history of polling by a Republican challenger among white voters, comparable to Dwight Eisenhower in '52, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George H. W. Bush in 1988. And he could match that and still lose. He could lose, because Republicans are routinely losing in '08 and they're on track to lose again in 2012 80 percent of minority voters who are now 26 percent of all of the electorate.

And so, I mean, the question -- the question for the party will be I think after this election, if Romney doesn't lose, can you go forward and allow Democrats to continue winning 80 percent of minority voters, because Candy, the equation for Barack Obama in November can be summarized pretty easily as 80/40. If he holds 80 percent of minorities, he can win as little as 40 percent of whites and win. That is a pretty high bar to have to cross as a republican nominee to win at least 60 percent of whites to win.

You know -- and I think the Ryan pick obviously will help with elements of the white community. They're very skeptical of government, not sure it really takes you anywhere with those minority voters who tend to be more supportive of a safety net that he looks to significantly retrench over time.

CROWLEY: And yet, you know, reaching out to minorities not something you can do in September, you know, Republican Party?

LOTHIAN: That's right. I mean, I think they realized that there was nothing -- there was nothing that he could really do to move the needle when it comes to minorities.

CROWLEY: Well, Rubio.

LOTHIAN: Well, Rubio he could have done that.

CROWLEY; Well, at some level Jindal probably would have been able to do that as well.

LOTHIAN: Exactly. Exactly. But you know, there had been a lot of complaining among the Tea Party, the right of the party, about Mitt Romney's conservative credentials. So he has been able to essentially put that I think to bed by picking -- making this choice.

CROWLEY; But what does it say if you are consolidating your base in August?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think people are going to like Paul Ryan. I think the American people will like Paul Ryan. The question whether they will like his plan and that is a very different issue. Certainly Republicans do, as I said, there's probably not been anything since the supply side tax cuts of the 1970s and Reagan that have caught the imagination of Republicans as much as this Ryan Budget blueprint. But it is a fundamental change in the role of the federal government in society. It's much more about that then a deficit reduction program. And it maintains deficits until 2040.

But ultimately, it takes the federal government back to 16 percent of the economy by 2050, which is a level it last was in 1950. So you're talking about a big change over time. Republicans want that ideological fight. Democrats do to. It's the rare plate that both sides like.

LOTHIAN: And if Americans were not paying attention to that plan, they will know everything about it now, because the Democrats are putting it out there the Obama campaign putting it out there.

Just pushing this forward just a little bit in our final minute or so at the convention, it seems to me, so correct me if I am wrong you two, that this is where Mitt Romney has his last best chance to say I'm actually a nice guy, I actually have your interests in mind. How does do that?

BROWNSTEIN: I think middle one is the most important., but go ahead.

LOTHIAN: No, I was just thinking that maybe his wife has to be able to make that case. Others, family members have to make that case that say -- they have to say, look, he is wealthy. He is not exactly like you, but he knows what you're feeling and he knows how to help you. He has done it as a businessman and don't pay attention to what the other side is trying to paint here, that he is putting people out of work, that he is, you know, getting rid of people's retirement. Pay attention to what he has done to help businesses, make them stronger, and that is what he will do

BROWNSTEIN; How is Barack Obama ahead in this economy? Part of it is the demography we are talk, but a big part of it, there's a slice of voters who are dissatisfied with Obama with an Obama campaign is convinced that Mitt Romney does not have their interests at heart. And that is what he has to change at the convention.

CROWLEY: Ron Brownstein is going to stick with us for the next couple of hours. Dan, thank you for joining us. You're off to other things. Thank you both.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Some Republicans say Paul Ryan brings unique skills to a Romney presidency, this includes catching catfish with his bare hands. My interview with the bow hunter and fisherman, coming up next.


CROWLEY; Politicians, they are just like you and me, more or less. At State of the Union we have an online feature called Getting to Know. It is our time to find out about the daily details, a quick peek at the person behind the policy. Earlier this year, we got to know Congressman Ryan a bit better.


CROWLEY: We noted that you are a bow hunter, a skier and a fisherman. And we want to focus in on that last part and have you explain to us what noodling is. RYAN: I haven't explained to you but, I do find myself explaining to a lot of people. My wife is from southern Oklahoma. And down there in southern Oklahoma, they have a sport where during spawning season for catfish, you go along the river banks, we do this in Lake Texoma down there on the Illinois -- I mean, on the Oklahoma/Texas border. And you put your hand in the hole where the catfish is spawning, they bite down on your hand and then you pull the catfish out of the hole. So you are basically catching catfish by hand. It is really exhilarating. It's actually quite fun. And so we try to get down there during noodling season, end of May, early June to catch catfish and they are delicious.

CROWLEY: So you catch the catfish on your hand and then, what, throw it up on the bank?

RYAN: Yeah, you have to put it under your arm 'cause they have this side fin that can kind of get you, they can sting you. So you have to -- there's a certain technique to grab it and you walk it up into the bank and put it in your boat or your bucket or whatever you have.

It is really fun.


CROWLEY: You're going to take your word on that.

More Getting to Know with Paul Ryan in our special 10:00 am edition of State of the Union.

We want to show you a live picture in Mooresville, North Carolina, the first of three events today for the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan.

CROWLEY: Just a few short months ago, some Republicans wondered if Mitt Romney had the goods to go all the way to the White House, but in the last 24 hours, conservatives have flooded our inboxes and our air waves with praise for Mitt Romney, and his vice-presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.

Former Republican rival Michele Bachmann said: "The Romney/Ryan Republican ticket is our comeback ticket to prosperity and strength." Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said: "Selecting someone like Paul Ryan, who so popular with tea party activists, proves that Mitt Romney is committed to addressing the economic issues." And Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson says Ryan will be a, quote "tremendous asset to Governor Romney."

Joining me now is Republican Senator Ron Johnson, whose tea party bona fides sent him to Washington. Johnson also happens to be from Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, which I guess should lead me to my first question which is, does this change the mix in Wisconsin? Can you see Republicans picking it up? They are now behind when you look at the polls in Wisconsin. Can Paul Ryan pull his own state into the Romney column? SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Well, good morning, Candy.

Listen, I think Wisconsin has always been in play. We turned Wisconsin red in November 2010 because of President Obama's policies, because of "Obama-care," people didn't like that thing being jammed through on an entirely partisan basis. People also understand in Wisconsin, we are pretty fiscally conservative here.

People have the common sense notion that government should live within its means. And as Wisconsinites see this president spend our nation into debt, you know, burden our children and grandchildren with $5.3 trillion worth of added debt during this -- during his administration, that scares them.

And, again, so we turned the state red in November 2010. I don't see what has changed, you know, in two years, other than matters have gotten far, far worse. So, no, I think Wisconsin is definitely in play. I think we will deliver 10 electoral votes to the next president, Mitt Romney.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a little bit about the tea party, which has been among the conservatives on that side of the Republican Party pushing for Mitt Romney to nominate someone that is more kind of in their comfort zone. But the criticism has been now, but what does Paul Ryan bring to the ticket when it comes to attracting swing voters?

JOHNSON: Well, what Paul brings to the ticket, as does Mitt Romney, is a seriousness of purpose. I mean, this is an excellent -- it's an outstanding choice, it's a confident choice. It definitely guarantees that this election will be about big issues. It will be about the serious problems facing this nation and two individuals that have serious solutions and real proposals to fix the problems.

Let face it, President Obama, he has proposed four budgets so far, Candy. Not once has he laid out a proposal to save either Social Security or Medicare. His last two budgets were so unserious, they have had three votes in Congress, the total vote tally, 0-610. They have been so unserious, not a member of President Obama's own party have given them their vote.

You know, when I tell people that in Wisconsin, it doesn't get enough play nationally, they are astonished by the fact that we are the largest financial entity in the world and we are operating without a budget.

The Senate, controlled by Democrats, haven't passed a budget in three years. So, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney will bring leadership to the table where this president and the Democrats and the Senate have totally abdicated their responsibility, have been showing no leadership.

CROWLEY: All right. You know, earlier in our 9 a.m. hour, we talked to David Axelrod, I think you can imagine, obviously, that the Obama people are saying this is a radical choice here. This is a ticket that is completely out of step with the mainstream of America. And I want to just show our viewing audience a pilot poll we did on -- sorry, a poll we did on tea party support.

And the question was, do you consider yourself a supporter of the tea party movement? Yes, 25 percent. No, 65 percent. So, the question here is where is the appeal for someone like Paul Ryan, very popular with the tea party, to those voters still trying to make up their minds?

JOHNSON: Candy, what is radical is President Obama's policies. Remember, this is a man who five days before his election said that in five days, we will fundamentally transform United States of America.

I really don't believe most Americans want America to be fundamentally transformed. They want our problems addressed. And again, that's...

CROWLEY: Then how come he said...

JOHNSON: The problem with this president, he is simply not addressing those problems.

CROWLEY: Sure. And yet, he leads -- the latest polls we saw, he was anywhere from 7 to 9 points up. So, doesn't that tell you something about how America now views this race?

JOHNSON: Well, so many of those polls are registered voters versus likely voters. And I really do believe that Americans are hungering for leadership. I think Americans are ready to be treated as adults and be told the truth.

And, again, that is what Governor Romney and Paul Ryan bring to the table here, people that are actually willing to tell Americans the truth, lay out real proposals, be held accountable.

Why hasn't the Senate passed a budget in over three years? It's because Democrats refuse to put their fingerprints on any kind of game plan that the American people can actually take a look at and hold them accountable.

Paul Ryan is willing to do that. Mitt Romney is willing to do that. And I think in the end, they will be rewarded with that seriousness of purpose by the American public because we are looking for leadership. We need to solve these problems. We don't have a whole lot of time, Candy.

CROWLEY: Do you see any risk at all in places like Florida, where there is a huge senior population and elsewhere, where seniors drive the vote, to putting on your ticket and having on a ticket two men who want to change one of the most popular government programs in the country, Medicare?

JOHNSON: Candy, the risk is in not doing anything. I mean, the way we end Medicare as we know it is to do nothing because it will go bankrupt in 12 years. It will actually go bankrupt far sooner than that because ...

CROWLEY: But even if you could make that argument... JOHNSON: ... with President Obama's health care law -- pardon?

CROWLEY: I was going to say even if you can make that argument, is the campaign trail, which tends to be about, you know, bumper stickers and quick campaign speeches, a time to have a real policy debate? I mean, it would be lovely to think that but you know what the campaign trail is like.

JOHNSON: Well, Candy, you know, a lot of that has to do with news media in terms of what you are willing to cover. What Governor Romney has done in picking Paul Ryan is, he is telling the news media, let's have that debate, let's talk about issues.

Let's not pay attention to President Obama's distractions, you know, all the diversions he is putting out there because he simply can't run on his record of $5.3 trillion worth of debt, unemployment above 8 percent for more than 42 months.

Remember President Obama promised to cut the deficit in half in his first term. He hasn't done that. He said woe lower family premiums by $2,500 a year. They are up by almost $2,500. If we can actually talk about the issues, if we can talk about the failed record, the failed policies, the lack of leadership from President Obama, I think that will bode very well for our president, Mitt Romney.

CROWLEY: Senator Johnson, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate your insight.

JOHNSON: Have a great day.

CROWLEY: You, too.

Romney's campaign is hoping that Paul Ryan will bring with him a much-needed advantage in the Midwest, and that does include his state of Wisconsin, which we just discussed. Next up, a kind of different kind of view from Ron Kind on whether the Democrats can hold on to the state they grabbed in 2008.


CROWLEY: Joining us now by phone is Wisconsin Democrat Congressman Ron Kind. You are a Democrat, but also from Wisconsin so there has to be some part of you that thinks this is very cool. There's a Wisconsin congressman now in the Republican ticket.

REP. RON KIND, (D) WISCONSIN: Well, good morning, Candy, And first off, congratulations to Paul Ryan. We have been friends for a long time, although we have had some serious policy differences I and disagreements and that. But you know, it is neat to see that he is there.

But this is going to be now an election about a choice, which is what our country needs. And quite frankly, I was shocked that Governor Romney did decide to pick Paul as his running mate. I mean, Paul was there as one of the architects during the Bush administration that put our nation deep into debt and jeopardized our economic future as a country.

So, I was surprised with that pick.

CROWLEY: You know, this is now a ticket that's going to say we have some problems in this country, we have to be serious, enough of all this silly campaign talk. Medicare is in serious trouble and here is our offer on how we should do that. Does that not in some way elevate both this ticket and the campaign?

KIND: Well, I don't know. You take a look at the Romney/Ryan budget right now. And that really is the blueprint, their vision for our country. And it is really a case of back to the future. I mean, let's be honest, Paul Ryan was there and cast votes for two large tax cuts that benefited the most wealthy without paying for any of it, two wars that went unpaid for, supported the largest expansion of entitlement spending since Medicare was first created in 1965 with a new prescription drug and large taxpayer subsidies going to private insurance Medicare Advantage plans without paying a nickel for any of it and then we wonder why we are facing huge budget deficits today. And their prescription for the future is exactly the same thing, if you take a look what the they are proposing.

CROWLEY: You know congressman, you may call this back to the future, but we are looking at present-day polls which tell us that Americans more and more think the economy is doing badly. Why would they want to stay with the present?

KIND: Well, let's also recall. I know we do suffer from short- term memory in this nation but the moment President Obama was sworn into office, he inherited a mess. We were losing over 800,000 jobs a month. He inherited a 1.5 trillion budget deficit, over $17 trillion of wealth was already destroyed in the stock market. And since that time we've had 28 consecutive months of private sector job growth that wealth has been returned to the stock market. There's still a lot more work that needs to be done, but the budget deficit this year will be one-third less than what President Obama inherited.

But clearly more work needs to be done. And I think the American people understand this choice and that President Obama and the vision of the agenda that he's offering will not only strengthen the middle class, but to keep places like Wisconsin and the rest of our nation more competitive globally...

CROWLEY: Congressman...

KIND: And they will have a more serious and balanced approach to a long-term deficit reduction deal, which is exactly what our nation needs right now.

CROWLEY: Congressman, final question here. So you have a hometown boy now on the Republican ticket, does that put Wisconsin more in play, particularly given the recall election where your governor, a Republican, was triumphant?

KIND: No, I don't think it does, because I think the people in Wisconsin will understand what the clear choice confronting them is. And again, you look at President Obama. And his policies, his ideas would strengthen the middle class, which is very important to Wisconsin, including manufacturing sector in our state.

And most importantly, I mean, our chief economic challenge today, Candy, is increased global competition, yet everything that Romney and Ryan is proposing would take the tools away to enable our nation to compete globally in a more successful basis, from huge cuts to education, to job training program, cuts to infrastructure and broadband deployment, large cuts to basic and applied research, the research that the private sector is loathe to do because the return isn't quick enough. Yet, those are the tools we need to remain the most competitive and creative nation in the world. And their vision takes us backwards and would set us up for, I think, economic decline.

CROWLEY: Democratic Congressman Ron Kind talking to us today from Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Thanks, congressman.

KIND: Thank you, my pleasure. CROWLEY: As we told you we are awaiting the first Romney/Ryan rally of the day. That's Mooresville -- I'm sorry, Yes, Mooresville, North Carolina, a NASCAR tech industry of some sort. They are a little behind, but we are monitoring it and we will get it to you as we see the Republican ticket.

But next up, President Obama's top strategist tells us that Romney's choice of Paul Ryan won't change the presidential race as much as it will further define it. Our own strategists weigh in next.


CROWLEY: So right now you are looking at Mooresville, North Carolina. That is the NASCAR tech institute. It's going to be the site -- it is the site of the first rally of the day for the newly minted Romney/Ryan ticket. We have not seen them yet, but we know they are there. And we are watching it.

In the meantime, I want to bring in Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile, along with Republican consultant and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos. Both wrote opinion pieces, by the way, for on vice presidential Paul Ryan, the topic du jour.

Let me start out, Alex, with something that you wrote and I want to ask you on the other side, you said "until this moment, Mitt Romney, like President Obama, has been playing small ball. The optimistic entrepreneur with the reputation for bringing disciplined, transformative change to the business world had not been leading, only playing it safe."

So in the end, this attempt kind of shake up his campaign, you read as an admission that thus far sitting around saying the economy's bad, you need someone else at the helm, has not been working?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: You know, I really don't look at this as a political decision. I think Mitt Romney is a business guy and he looked and he saw a business that he wanted to fix. That business wasn't his campaign, interestingly enough, it was the business of the country, the economy. And he looked at Paul Ryan and says, hey this guy knows the books, he understands where the money is in this business and how it works, that's what i need to fix this business.

So I think actually, he didn't pick someone to help him make the sale. I think he picked someone here to help him fix the problem. I think it's a courageous move, a bold move, with a lot of political risk.

CROWLEY: So, before I get to Donna, can you define the risk to me? What do you think the risk is of Paul Ryan? If it is such a great pick and everybody says it is bold it is decisive, it's great. It's risk, how?

CASTELLANOS: Well, because it hands the Democrats a weapon and that is Medicare cuts, you know, the missile is headed for grandma's house. Grandma's wheelchair is headed over the cliff again, like it's been so many Democratic ads before.

Republicans are going to be accused of wanting to end Medicare as we know it, which I think Politifact rated the number one lie of 2011. But that's what we're going -- you don't want to start a campaign in the fall on defense, you want to start it on offense. And you don't want this campaign to be about entitlement reform, if you are a Republican, you want it to be about jobs and growth and has Obama failed the last four years?

CROWLEY: And yet, Donna, with the pick, almost guaranteed that this fall, we are going to be talking about entitlement reform?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, absolutely. We should talk about entitlement reform. We should talk about tax reform. We should talk about the budget.

But I want to disagree with my friend Alex Castellanos in terms of Mitt Romney and whether this was a political pick. Days before the Republican convention, Mitt Romney found himself with an unhappy base, without a defining issue, with a campaign that really didn't excite people, so Mitt Romney did what he often do, he outsourced himself to Paul Ryan.

The problem with Mitt Romney, of course is that people are going to still focus on the top of the ticket and Paul Ryan's budget will nationalize the conversation about the budget and how we intend to fix it. Do we have a balanced approach or do we go back to just tax cuts for the wealthy that will continue to raise the national deficit?

CROWLEY: These are live pictures, by the way, just as Donna and Alex and I continue to talk. I think you probably recognize those folks. Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan. They are in North Carolina, which by the way, the president won last time around. This time around, it is still very much looking as though the Republicans can take it back. Obviously, this bus trip they are on part of that effort to win back North Carolina.

So it looks like Paul Ryan is about to talk. So, we are going to -- I'm going interrupt my two guys and let you-all listen.

RYAN: Man, thank you! Thank you, North Carolina! This is awesome. It's great to see you all.

Hey, are we gonna win North Carolina?


RYAN: That's right we are.

It is such a pleasure to be here with you. It is great to see some of my good friends, my body you Robin Hayes is here, I just love that man dearly. My partner, a guy I worked with so many years on key projects, you're awesome, United States Senator Richard Burr is here. Richard, it's great to see you.

I see my pal in the house, Patrick McHenry is here as well. Patrick, it's great to see you. And we got two new members of congress that you're going to send to Washington next year. We got Richard Hudson and RobertPettinger here, great to see you guys here also.


RYAN: I love you, too.

And you are going to send to the state house a great new governor in Pat McCrory, aren't you?


RYAN: I just had a great experience. I got meet Darrell Waltrip. That was pretty cool. You know what we make five-star NASCAR bodies in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. We are real proud of that. And I don't mean to offend, but a lot of us where we come from are big Matt Kenseth people, because he is a Wisconsin boy, too.

I know everybody has got their favorites.

Here's the deal, the economy is not working like it should. President Obama four years ago came with so much promise, so much hope and so much change and then when he got elected, he swept in his party as well. They were able to pass their entire legislative agenda virtually. And so, what we got was stimulus, Obamacare...


RYAN: A budget that doubled the debt in two -- five years and tripled it in ten, takeovers all various industries. And you know what happened after that? North Carolina unemployment, 9.4 percent today.


RYAN: Since President Obama took office, 71,000 jobs lost in North Carolina. (BOOING)

RYAN: 435,000 people out of work in North Carolina.

You know what, North Carolina? We can do better than this.


RYAN: Help is on the way.


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 are giving our children a diminished future or we can change this thing and get this country back on the right track.

Now, historians often point to the key characteristics of a great leader, of a statesman, of the kind of leaders that have changed things around. 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 is going to be the next president of the United States.


RYAN: You know why? We know who we are. We know what we believe in. We know the principles that built this country and we are going to reapply those principles and get this country back on the right track and leave our kids a better future.


RYAN: When you look at the life this man has led, a life of raising a wonderful family, a life of being successful in business, starting new businesses, turning around troubled businesses, knowing with real experience that if you have a small business, you did build that.


RYAN: Someone who knows firsthand that all these tax increases coming at our small businesses, all the Band-Aids 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, is what is keeping us from creating prosperity.


RYAN: This is a man who understands these things. This is a man who when his country needed him to save the U.S. Olympics, it was a moment where the Olympics were in doubt. It was bloated. It was wasteful. It was corrupted. Does that sound familiar by the way?


RYAN: His country asked him to move to Salt Lake to turn it around and save the Olympics. He did it and we are so proud of that moment.


RYAN: The contrast could not be more clear. When he was governor of Massachusetts, he balanced the budget without raising taxes.


RYAN: President Obama just -- has given us budgets with no balance ever and a lot of new taxes. If President Obama's economic policies of borrowing, taxing and spending worked, we would be entering a golden age along with Greece.


RYAN: It doesn't work because it's never worked. The engine of opportunity, the nucleus of our society, is the small business, the family, the entrepreneur, not the government.



CROWLEY: That's Paul Ryan, obviously Mitt Romney's number two pick, doing exactly what number twos do, which is praise number one. They are in Mooresville, North Carolina, at the beginning of a busy day, which actually will end in Wisconsin, Paul Ryan's state. So we will continue to monitor that. We are going to come back and see a little bit more of it, also standing by, our Donna Brazile and Alex Castellanos. Stick with us.


ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: Thrilled to have this kind of enthusiasm, this kind of ...

CROWLEY: Mooresville -- sorry, Mooresville, North Carolina, talking, of course is Ann Romney. We are going to continue to monitor this. And when we get to Mitt Romney, we will give you a little of that. If we have some time.

I want to get back to our Donna Brazile here. And something that you said in your op-ed, which I want to pick up on and I know Alex wants to jump in as well -- the embrace of an ideologue like Paul Ryan may appeal to the Republican Party's Tea Party base, but it will completely alienate independent voters, especially in battleground states. Now, let me just preface this by saying if you are talking about Ryan's approach to the budget, including his Medicare approach, this was signed on to by a Democrat, Ron Wyden, who I'm sure you know as well. So, why is this not appealing in some way, shape or form to some of those swing voters?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, I believe it will galvanize economic conservatives in much the same way Sarah Palin galvanized social conservatives. But when you look at the entire Ryan budget, which decimate Medicaid, changes the Medicare to a voucher system that forces seniors to opt out of the system and to get private health insurance at a cut, and they may not be able to get that. It destroys public education. It curtails our ability to fix our infrastructure. The Ryan budget is a recipe for disaster. If you think tax cuts for the rich right now is the solution to our growth problem, then look at the Ryan budget, because it basically triples tax cuts up until 2040, creating almost, you know, $9 trillion worth of deficits. So, I think this is the wrong approach to getting our economy moving faster and I believe it is a recipe for disaster for the country. CROWLEY: Donna, I know Alex is going to want to respond to that, and I will let him, but Alex, right now, Mitt Romney is at the microphone in Mooresville, North Carolina, we want to take a little bit of that.

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... by Republicans even, and a lot by Democrats. 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.


ROMNEY: 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.


ROMNEY: His career -- his career ambition was not to go to Washington. That is not what he wanted to do. But he became concerned about what was happening in the country.


ROMNEY: And wanted to get America back on track, and so he put aside the plans he had for his career and said I'm going to go and serve. And he's gone there, and he's put the country and policies to get America right again ahead of ambition. This is a person of character. It's a man of leadership.

He became a leader and a man of sound character very early in his life. His dad passed away when he was in high school and the family rallied together as mom and siblings and the community to support him and to support that family. It created a man who loves this country, loves his community and understands that time is short. And that this nation must be kept strong. So he went to Washington, and he went there and fought for ideas and values and principles, not just for partisanship, but for his view of America. And he was able to work across the aisle. And unusual character there, instead of throwing brick bats, and attacking and demonizing other people, he recognized that honest people can have honest differences. And so he worked with them and convinced them and has created change in Washington at a critical time, and so I have selected this man to be my running mate because I want to change Washington ...


ROMNEY: ... and get America back on track.


ROMNEY: Now, I have got -- I have got good news for you, and that is that this nation is going to come roaring back.

[ APPLAUSE ] ROMNEY: There is some who are fearful that if we stay on the track we are on, we are going to end up like Greece. And we are going to have like Europe has, the chronic high unemployment and the low wage growth and fiscal calamity right at the door. That is not the path I will take us down. I see our president making us more and more like Europe. I don't want to be like Europe. I want to be like America.


ROMNEY: The other day -- the other day in Virginia, that the president said something. I just couldn't believe he said it. It was so counter to the culture and character of the American spirit that I just couldn't imagine he said it. He said if you have a business, you didn't do that, someone else did.


ROMNEY: And he said well, you took me out of context, and then look at the context. All right, it is on Youtube, you can see the whole speech. The context is worse than the quote.


ROMNEY: He says, you know, if you're successful, and you think it's because you're smart, he says, well, a lot of people are smart. And if you think it is because you are working hard, a lot of people work hard. I thought where is he going with this? Because you see in this country what has distinguished us from so many other nations is that we have people who strive to fulfill their dreams, who have big dreams and reach for the stars and as they do so, and as they are successful, it does not make us worse off. It makes us more successful as a nation.


ROMNEY: And that -- that might be the person who, in a place like this, this is a place that trains people with the skills that they need to work in Nascar and other parts of the automobile -- automobile industry. And people get more skills, and as they get more skills, they get promotions, and as they get promotions, they are able to help themselves and their families, and by the way, lift the economy. People -- people striving. They built their career, they built that promotion, they deserve the credit. If a young person works hard, they make the honor roll, they study and study and prepare for the exams and take those exams and tests and do well, they make the honor roll. Now I know that to get to school, they had to go on a bus and they had to have a bus driver, but if they get the honor roll, I don't give the credit to the bus driver, I give it to the kid.


ROMNEY: That's what -- that's one of the things that makes America what it is. It is individuals with initiative and risk taking and hard work and smarts who reach, who dream. We are a nation of big steppers, we have much to accomplish, much to achieve, we do that in our homes, at our churches, in our community, in our states, we do it as a nation, we do it in our businesses. That's what makes America the leader of the world. When the founders, when the founders helped craft this country by writing the Declaration of Independence, they chose their words carefully. They said our rights came not from government, but from our creator. And among them ...


ROMNEY: ... and among them -- among them are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That last little phrase, by the way, the pursuit of happiness that says that in this country, each person is free to pursue happiness as she or he wishes, and that means the circumstance of birth will not prevent you from reaching. It means that whatever your station in life, you can work harder to see if you are going to achieve something more for yourself and for the people who come behind you, and your success lifts the entire nation. That's what makes America go, individuals pursuing their dreams. It is not government that makes us great, it is the people of America.


CROWLEY: That is Mitt Romney, of course. Seems he is newly energized by what's been a big weekend for him. We will have more, right after this.


ROMNEY: ... with Paul Ryan ...

CROWLEY: With his vice presidential choice on the podium with him, this, of course, is Mitt Romney in Mooresville, North Carolina.

ROMNEY: It is instead to restore the principles of America that made us the hope of the Earth.


ROMNEY: We love this country. We love this country. We love America. We are going to do everything in our power to keep America strong with strong families and strong values, a strong economy, the strongest military in the world, we will restore American strength. We love this country. We love you! Thank you, North Carolina! Let's win this in November! Thank you!


CROWLEY: My goodness, a raucous Sunday morning in Mooresville, North Carolina. I want to bring in Alex Castellanos who is with me here still, as well as Donna Brazile. Alex, I have a question for you, but first there is nothing like a new guy on the campaign trail with you to rev up a campaign.

CROWLEY: That's just a -- a slightly different Mitt Romney, there, we're seeing.

CASTELLANOS: You know, it's a much more energetic Mitt Romney. You've got -- this is the first Generation X candidate on a presidential and vice presidential ticket. So there's a lot of youth and energy, and I think that's the Republican opportunity. Can they turn youth into energy and into something new, a new direction?

CROWLEY: And let me ask you, as we were talking with Donna before we went down there to pick up the candidate, about Paul Ryan and who he attracts. And she has written in her op-ed on, which yours is as well, that this pick may well energize the Tea Party and the conservatives, but it's certainly not -- it's going to turn off, basically, swing voters. And when I look at where the soft spots are, and that's putting it graciously, in Mitt Romney's support, it is with minorities and it's with women.

Does Paul Ryan bring anything to the table that would help Mitt Romney there?

CASTELLANOS: Well, I know that's certainly not his hope, that -- that Ryan alienates seniors, for example, and alienates women and independents. But, of course, that's the frame that Republicans can't accept.

Barack Obama and Biden are framing this race as, if you vote for us, you're going to get more from government; if you vote for them, you're going to get less. And Republicans can't accept that. The Ryan challenge, and I think what he can bring to the ticket is no, no, if you vote for us, you're going to get more from the economy; if you vote for them, you're going to get less from the economy.

If Republicans accepted this, the Democratic concept of this race, that this is about you're going to get less, an austerity referendum, we're going to lose. But if republicans, especially Ryan, can say, look, no, this is about -- is our economy going to give you more, we know how to do that; we can help you get there. Do you want more jobs, more paychecks?

Because, in the end, unless we grow that economy, we can't even pay for the government programs that you depend on. So it needs to be more versus less on the Republican side, not more versus less from the Democrats.

CROWLEY: So, Donna, as Alex describes it, it's a pretty classic Democrat versus Republican fight, the size of government. Is that how you see it? BRAZILE: No, I believe it's the vision of government; it's not just the size. Because Republicans will continue to grow the government in some areas, and in some other areas, they will cut the government back.

For example, they want to continue to increase the military spending in our country, which, of course, that's important to maintain a very strong and capable defense, but how do we pay for it? The Republicans' approach is tax cuts for the super-rich that will continue to produce deficits as far as we can see.

No, Democrats want the American people to look at this as do you want to continue to go forward? We're creating jobs; we're building the economy; we're investing in infrastructure, investing in education, versus going back to the same failed economic policies that caused our economy to crash in the first place.

CROWLEY: Donna Brazile and Alex Castellanos, thank you very much for being with me this morning and for hanging in while we went to North Carolina for a while. Appreciate it.

He listens to Led Zeppelin and has ripped abs. After this break, we get to know the new V.P. candidate.


CROWLEY: As promised, we now bring you more of "State of the Union's" "Getting to Know" with Paul Ryan. It's our online segment, where we ask policymakers those questions you really want to know, or at least that amuse you. It's their favorite food, their hobbies; what did they do in high school?

We talked to Paul Ryan last year and found out that, underneath that Midwest veneer is a rocker who's a bit of a gym rat.


CROWLEY: Your staff calls you a workout freak. And we want to show something to our viewers, which we will tell you is a picture of Aaron Schock on "Men's Health" magazine. So what we'd like to know is, who's in better shape, you or Congressman Schock?

RYAN: We work out every morning together, actually, Aaron and I do. We do a workout called P90X. And he's got 12 years on me. He's 12 years younger than me. So you can do the math.

CROWLEY: Oh, he wins on that?

RYAN: Oh, yeah, he's -- he's in great shape. I mean, look, I'm 41; he's 30 -- he's 29, I think. So we work out together. We're both in good shape, but I'm gonna -- I'm gonna let him take these prizes. I'm not interested in any of that.

CROWLEY: He gets...

(LAUGHTER) He gets the title? And the other thing...

RYAN: Yeah, he can have that.


CROWLEY: The other thing we're told is that you're rarely without your iPod. So I want to know what your favorite song is on your ipod. Do not tell me John Tesh, because I know you've pulled that before, and that's not...

RYAN: Oh, yeah, that was...



CROWLEY: Yeah, that's right. That's not true. So tell us for real.

RYAN: Nothing but Gregorian chant. I'm just kidding.

CROWLEY: Very Zen of you.

RYAN: I'm a big -- I'm a big Led Zeppelin fan. I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin. So, you know, I'd say "Out on the Gallows Pole," you know. There's a lot of good Zeppelin tunes. I just, kind of, shuffle around Zeppelin fairly often.

I'm a product of my times. I mean, actually, Zeppelin's a little bit before my times, but, you know, I grew up listening to hard rock, classic rock, a lot of Zeppelin, that kind of stuff.

CROWLEY: If you like Zeppelin, then you should try...

RYAN: I've got -- I've got Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Grateful Dead, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, a lot of grunge. You name it. It's, kind of, an eclectic...

CROWLEY: I was going to say very eclectic. I'm going to have to give you some Pink Floyd, though, just to add to that collection. I just have to throw that in there.

RYAN: I have Beethoven and Tchaikovsky as well.


CROWLEY: A little something for everyone there. We'll have the rest of getting to know Paul Ryan when I return in one hour for a special 12 p.m. edition of "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.