story by Chris Strohm and Jim Snyder
Republicans and Democrats used the Sunday talk shows to sharpen their attacks following the selection by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Ryan is “a right-wing ideologue” who wants to “lavish” the wealthy with tax cuts while cutting spending on programs that help the middle class, students and senior citizens, David Axelrod, a campaign strategist for President Barack Obama, said on ABC’s “This Week” program.
“He wants trillions of dollars of more budget-busting tax cuts skewed to the wealthy,” Axelrod said during an appearance on the NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “This is a prescription for economic catastrophe.”
Republicans countered that Romney showed leadership and courage by picking Ryan, who as chairman of the House Budget Committee has pushed efforts to scale back the size of government through spending reductions and tax cuts. He is most identified with his proposal to replace Medicare the health-insurance program for the elderly, with a plan offering seniors a fixed amount of money for private insurance.
Ryan, 42, was an “extraordinarily exciting choice, because you now have a national leader who is capable of talking in detail with the American people about some very complicated topics and that’s a very unusual moment in American history,” former House Speaker and ex-Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Ryan’s selection shows Romney is “very serious about doing big things for this country.” Ryan represents “everything conservatives had hoped for,” Thune said.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, said Ryan is a “bold choice” for vice president. Ryan is “good matchup” because of his “intimate knowledge” of the budget, McCain said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“This is a substance-driven campaign versus a fear-and-smear campaign,” Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Romney, said on CNN.
Democrats said they welcomed the debate, and portrayed a Ryan-authored budget plan as benefitting the wealthy with tax cuts while cutting back programs that help the middle class.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Florida Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who also heads the Democratic National Committee, said Ryan is an “extremist” with “seriously flawed ideas on the economy.”
Much of debate centered on Ryan’s proposed overhaul of Medicare.
His plan for changing Medicare into a voucher program would “shed the safety net” that has protected seniors for more than 50 years, Wasserman Schultz said.
Ryan’s proposal to allow private insurers to compete with Medicare would put the government program in a “death spiral,” by driving up its costs, Axelrod said on CNN.
“Ultimately it’s going to destroy the program,” he said.
“The president already has taken steps that add eight years to the life of Medicare,” Axelrod said on the NBC program. “There’s no doubt that we have to do more, but the question is, are we going to do it in a way that preserves the program?”
Republicans said Ryan has shown leadership by proposing a budget plan that would save Medicare over time.
“If any person in this entire debate has blood on their hands with regard to Medicare, it’s President Obama,” Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said on “Meet the Press.”
Asked whether Romney backs all of Ryan’s budget proposals, Priebus said that while his party’s presumptive nominee “appreciates and admires” the work that Ryan has done, he also has his own ideas.
Axelrod disavowed an ad run by Priorities USA Action, a super-political action committee supporting Obama, that attacks Romney for actions by Bain Capital LLC, the Boston-based private-equity firm that the former Massachusetts governor once headed. The ad links the closing of a Bain-owned plant to the loss of a steelworker’s health insurance and the death of his wife.
“I don’t think Governor Romney can be blamed for that woman’s death,” Axelrod said on the “ABC This Week” program. “What he can be blamed for is taking that steel company to bankruptcy, walking away with millions of dollars and leaving workers without pensions, without the health insurance they were promised.”
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who also sought the Republican nomination and was a contender for the running-mate spot, said Obama should personally disavow the ad.
“The president himself should have the basic decency to say, you know what, that ad’s out of bounds,” Pawlenty said on the ABC program.
Axelrod criticized Romney for accusing Obama in an ad of “taking the work requirement out of welfare.”
Romney first made the statement Aug. 7 during a campaign stop in suburban Chicago, referring to a memo issued in July by the Department of Health and Human Services allowing states to apply for waivers from certain parts of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
Pawlenty said he and other governors sought flexibility in the work requirement. He said Obama should clarify that he’s not going to undermine the work requirement.