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WEEKEND EARLY START

Romney to Announce VP Pick; A Look at the Politics of Paul Ryan

Aired August 11, 2012 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. From the CNN Center, I'm Randi Kaye. It's 6:00 on the East Coast, 3:00 a.m. out west, and 5:00 a.m. in Jamesville, Wisconsin. Thanks for starting your morning with us.

We begin with breaking news.

Sources tell CNN Mitt Romney is picking rising Republican star, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, as his running mate. Romney has been under pressure to make a bold choice. And Ryan certainly would be that. The chair of the House Budget Committee has been sharply critical of President Obama's economic policies and an outspoken fiscal conservative.

Take a look at this. The Romney/Ryan website is already up and running this morning. Romney is expected to make the announcement at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time, about three hours from now, in Norfolk, Virginia. That's where he is kicking off a four day bus tour through key battleground states.

Bryan Monroe is the editor of cnnpolitics.com and he's joining us now from our Washington bureau.

Bryan, good morning. So sources telling CNN that it is going to be Paul Ryan. What do you think? What would he bring to the ticket?

BRYAN MONROE, EDITOR, CNNPOLITICS.COM: Well, you know, this is either Mitt Romney's, I guess, apparent call. This is either going to be his boldest move or probably his riskiest mistake. Because Paul Ryan is a galvanizing force for conservative Republicans. He has been seen as the voice behind fiscal conservatism. For Democrats, however, he is the voice that wants to get rid of Medicare. Now whether either one of those two things is all truthful, it's going to really be a lightning rod in this campaign.

KAYE: And why make the announcement today, Saturday morning? You have the Olympics going on. He's about to kick off his bus tour. A lot of folks thought maybe he would do this a little bit later on.

MONROE: Well, there was a lot of speculation about when he would do this. But one of the things, a Saturday announcement, there have been a few other Saturday announcements in the past, but a Saturday announcement gets you some Sunday morning air time on the Sunday morning talk show, the Sunday newspapers, and then gets you a nice really good ramp up for a full week of coverage in the media. KAYE: What do you think is going on inside the Obama White House right now? What's their next move in their strategy? How do you think they're reacting to this?

MONROE: Well, you have to imagine that they have already laid out their battle plans for a Romney-Ryan ticket. They know where to attack Ryan on his budget plan. They also know when to look back and see which votes that he and Romney differed on. You know, Paul Ryan voted for TARP, he voted for the -- for a tax on the millionaires who benefitted from the AIG scandal. He voted for the auto bailout. And, you know, he's been -- he looks very young, but he's actually been in Congress for 13 years -- that's almost a decade and a half -- and voted for many of those debt ceiling increases that now he's rallying against.

KAYE: Certainly has been a bumpy few weeks for Mitt Romney. Three new polls show that President Obama is widening his lead over Romney. And Romney's coming off that rough overseas trip as well. Do you think -- really think that this is going to be a game changer today?

MONROE: Well, this is certainly a bold move for Romney either way. And, you know, he may have been hurting. The last polls show that he has really taken a nose dive. His approval and favorable ratings have gone down. And this -- you know, those numbers may have been just enough of an edge, just enough of a push to have him decide between a more safe, maybe some would say boring choice like a Portman, versus someone who's more bold and aggressive like Paul Ryan.

KAYE: Is this Romney's way of trying to attract some blue collar voters as well?

MONROE: Well, you know, Paul Ryan has -- he goes back to Jamesville, Wisconsin, a fifth generation local native. He goes back there every -- every weekend, much like Joe Biden did when he was in Congress. And, you know, he knows that town -- it's a blue collar town -- and he's of those folks.

KAYE: He also wants to reverse what he calls deep spending mistakes made by the Bush administration. He doesn't want to go down that road again. Big attraction, right, for the Romney campaign knowing that.

MONROE: Well, you know, he is very much against heavy government spending. And, in fact, also does not want to raise taxes. And so his plan cuts spending and, as he says, closes loopholes. But, again, if you look back at some of the votes he made when he was in Congress, you have to wonder, is he now trying to undo some of the things that he helped do as a member of Congress?

KAYE: It's going to be an interesting environment just about three hours from now.

Bryan Monroe, thank you very much.

MONROE: Thanks, Randi.

KAYE: With election day less than three months away, some new polls suggest Mitt Romney's support is slipping, while President Obama's lead is growing, as we mentioned. Obama now leads Romney by seven points, 52 to 45 percent. That is according to a new CNN/ORC poll.

Some more bad news for Romney. His unfavorable numbers have gone up 6 percentage points since last month with registered voters. It's believed some of those troubling numbers may have something to do with those negative ad groups supporting the Obama campaign.

But he is solidifying some support. In May, only 47 percent of Romney voters said they were strongly behind him. That has now jumped to 56 percent. And as you can see, Obama's numbers haven't changed much at all.

So will Paul Ryan help boost Mitt Romney's approval rating. Our latest CNN/ORC poll shows 54 percent of voters don't have a favorable or unfavorable opinion about Ryan, signaling that a majority of Americans just don't know enough about him. That sentiment is about the same among Republicans. You see it there. Forty-five percent said they were unsure about Ryan.

In fact, if they were to choose, they told us that they would prefer to see Florida Senator Marco Rubio on the Romney ticket, ahead of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or Paul Ryan.

Congressman Paul Ryan is likely to be a lightning rod for Republicans and Democrats as the presidential campaign heats up. Our chief national correspondent, John King, has more on that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

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

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

RYAN: The discretionary spending. The bills that Congress signs, that you sign into law, that has increased 84 percent. So --

OBAMA: We'll have a -- we'll have a longer debate on the budget numbers there. All right?

KING: Ryan is the GOP's numbers guy. The House Budget Committee chairman who isn't afraid to say, in his view, the only way back to fiscal sanity is to dramatically shrink government and fundamentally change Medicare.

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

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

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

KING: There are upsides. It would energize a GOP base sometimes suspicious of Romney. Ryan is an energetic debater and campaigner. And at just 42, he would ad youthful vigor to the ticket. Close friends like former House colleague Mark Green say Ryan would help Romney in Wisconsin and across the Midwest.

MARK GREEN, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think he does get Wisconsin. But I think, more importantly, he gets that sort of blue collar conservative that I think is the heart of the Republican Party.

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

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

KING: Add Ryan to the ticket and there's no escaping this.

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

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

GERGEN: One of the stars of the Republican future over the next 10 to 20 years. Whether he's ready at this moment, only the campaign trail could tell. And he's going to get -- I will tell you, he's going to take a real beating.

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

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

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

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

KING: He's a self-described nerd, but don't underestimate Ryan's ambition or his competitive streak. It's clear, if he had his druthers, he'd rather debate the president. RYAN: I love the idea of Barack Obama. I love the fact that we have elected an African-American man as our president. I think that that is just a really cool thing. I just don't like the ideas coming from Barack Obama.

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

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

KING: And Romney who decides whether to place a risky bet on Paul Ryan.

John King, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: And be sure to stay with CNN this morning as Mitt Romney unveils his running mate. It happens at 9:00 a.m. Eastern live from Norfolk, Virginia. CNN is there and will bring it to you live.

Jim Acosta is on the scene with us. And we'll be speaking with him live in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. Twelve minutes past the hour.

Breaking news for you this morning.

It is a day that political junkies nationwide have been waiting for. In just a few hours, Mitt Romney is expected to unveil his pick for vice president. And sources tell CNN that the pick is this man, 42- year-old Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who is currently in his seventh term. The announcement is expected around 9:00 Eastern this morning in Norfolk, Virginia.

Let's take you live there now. That's where my colleague, Jim Acosta, is.

Jim, good morning.

So, this is a pretty daring decision, isn't it?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

It really is. And, Randi, I mean, we should point out to our viewers, the Romney campaign has not officially put out any kind of notification that Paul Ryan has been selected as Mitt Romney's running mate. And if you can look behind me right now, we're on the scene of this event site. The USS Wisconsin is behind me. There's the stage. There are some flags behind me. A Mitt Romney flag, a U.S. flag, a flag for the state of Virginia. But there are no signs of, at this point, Randi, that say Paul Ryan. So from an official standpoint, from the campaign, nothing has been at least suggested here on the event site.

But you were saying just a few moments ago, is this a daring pick? Yes, this is a daring pick. Mitt Romney, I think a few weeks ago, could have gone with the safe pick when this was more of a 50/50 race. He could have gone Tim Pawlenty. He could have gone Rob Portman.

But in the last few days before this announcement was made last night by the Romney camp that they were going to come out with this pick today, the polls were starting to widen between the president and Mitt Romney. You saw that CNN/ORC poll that had the president up by seven points. Then a Fox News poll came out the same day that showed Romney down by nine points.

Whether or not that factored into any of the considerations inside the Romney campaign, we just have not gotten that sense yet. My guess is, is that they will not even acknowledge that at this point because they've always expected, they've always told me, Randi, that they thought this was going to be a tight 50/50 race all the way down to the wire.

But what I can tell you, I did talk to a senior Romney strategist in recent days, Stuart Stevens, and, you know, we were talking about all this Bain Capital stuff and all these personal attacks that have been coming from the Obama campaign directed at Mitt Romney. And what he told me is that in the end, this campaign is going to be about big ideas, it's going to be about big contrasts. And the Paul Ryan announcement, if that's what we're going to have here in just a few hours from now, certainly suggests that.

This -- Paul Ryan is no shrinking violet. He doesn't tip toe through the tulips with his policy proposals. What he is proposing and what Mitt Romney is proposing is something very different than what the American people have been accustomed to for the last generation. The social safety net would be altered somewhat. The Republicans would maintain that that safety net would still be in place. That everything would work just fine in terms of senior citizens getting their Medicare and so forth. But it would make some pretty dramatic adjustments to the social safety net and that, I think, is what this fall campaign is going to be about, Randi.

KAYE: And those ideas have been well criticized by the Democrats. And now Romney, who has been pretty vague about his own ideas, has to own those. Has to own Paul Ryan's ideas.

ACOSTA: That's right. I will tell you that the Romney campaign and Mitt Romney himself, they did come out with a proposal very similar to Paul Ryan's. so some of this -- you could sort of see this train coming for months. Mitt Romney has been talking about sending Medicaid back to the states. Talking about some kind of premium support plan for Medicare. In the Romney plan, seniors would have a choice of sticking with the traditional Medicare plan, as it stands now, or getting those voucher payments, those premium support payments, to buy into the private insurance market.

Democrats will say, hey, wait a minute, that changes welfare as we know it. A phrase you'll be hearing a lot in the months ahead. And, Randi, I mean this -- it's so -- it's sort of like deja vu all over again. Everybody was expecting this to be 2004 all over again, the way George Bush went after John Kerry in a very personal sort of way. The way Bush supporters went after John Kerry in a very personal way.

This is now starting to shape up like a 1996, Bill Clinton versus Bob Dole. What happened during that race may be very similar to what we're about to see. Bill Clinton went after Bob Dole and said, hey, Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich, they're going to change welfare as we know it. That phrase is going to be coming back. It's going to be back to the future, Randi, when it comes to the messaging in this campaign in the months ahead.

KAYE: Yes, this is what we've all been waiting for, though. It's going to get really exciting now.

Jim Acosta there in Norfolk at the USS Wisconsin. Thank you very much.

Well, we do want to tell you about some other news. Important news happening this morning. Including a key strategy session on Syria's relentless violence taking place today. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in talks with Turkish leaders. We'll have the latest for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Good morning.

If you're just joining us this morning, we'll have much more on our breaking news coverage on Mitt Romney's VP pick in just a moment.

But first, a look at some other major news that we're watching right now.

As the violence in Syria escalates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Istanbul, Turkey, this morning to hold talks about the crisis. Clinton is expected to strategize with Turkish leaders on how to handle the civil war unfolding in Syria. Clinton's visit comes after the Obama administration slapped Syria's state oil company with new sanctions. Tens of thousands of Syrians are currently living in refugee camps along the Turkish/Syrian border.

Back here in the U.S., officials say residents living near this massive sinkhole in Louisiana will be unable to return to their homes for at least another month. The sink hole, which is about the size of a football field, has swallowed 100-foot tall Cyprus trees and is still getting bigger. Take a look at this before and after picture of the area. Authorities are investigating whether an underground salt cavern could be to blame, but are concerned about potential radiation and explosions.

An act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime. Those are the words of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder spoke at this memorial service held for the six victims killed during Sunday's Sikh temple shooting. Two Sikh's and the police officer wounded in the attack remain hospitalized. Lieutenant Brian Murphy's family issued a statement Friday thanking police and emergency responders for their heroic actions.

Back now to our breaking news coverage.

Mitt Romney reportedly making a bold choice in his bid to win the White House. But what does Paul Ryan, his possible pick, think Romney needs in a running make? We have CNN team coverage straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: In just a few hours, Mitt Romney is expected to unveil his pick for vice president and sources are telling CNN that he will unveil 42- year-old Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman, who is currently in his seventh term, as his pick. The announcement is expected around 9:00 Eastern this morning in Norfolk, Virginia.

Wolf Blitzer is waking up early with us this morning.

Glad you're with us, Wolf. Good morning to you.

So, what do you think? A bold move? What do you think he'll bring to the ticket?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I think he's going to really energize that Republican base, the conservative base. They love Paul Ryan. They're going to go out and vote. And I think it's going to reassure so many of them that Mitt Romney is, in fact, himself a conservative.

This is the most important decision a presidential candidate can make, telling the American people who would take over, God forbid, if something were to happen if he were president of the United States. It says a lot about who Mitt Romney is right now. And he's decided to go bold.

There was so much speculation over these past several weeks and months that he would ask Senator Rob Portman of Ohio or former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota to be his running mate. Both totally qualified. Both excellent men with a lot of great experience, but relatively bland compared to someone like Paul Ryan, or, for that matter, if he would have gone with Bobby Jindal or Marco Rubio or Chris Christie.

Here he is now saying, I want to energize this race right now and I want the economy to be issue number one. That is Paul Ryan's strength. He's been in Washington for almost 20 years. He knows these economic issues. He's chairman of the House Budget Committee.

So I think it's going to really give this race a real distinction between what the Romney-Ryan plan is on the one hand, as opposed to President Obama and Joe Biden's plan on the other. There are serious, major differences on the key economic tax related issues of the day between these two tickets right now and there's going to be a good substantive debate. So I'm really looking forward to it.

KAYE: It's interesting, though, because Romney and Ryan certainly haven't agreed on everything along the way. If you look at TARP and you look at the auto bailouts. So it's an interesting pick.

BLITZER: Right. They're not going to agree on everything. And, look, as we all remember, President Obama, when he picked Joe Biden, didn't agree with Joe Biden on everything all along the way. When Ronald Reagan picked George H.W. Bush in 1980 to be his running mate, they weren't -- they didn't agree on everything. But they have forged, by all accounts, and I've spoken to a lot of Romney people, Romney and Ryan have forged a really strong, positive personal relationships. Their families, they like each other. They'll work well together. So this will be a strong ticket.

And if I know the Democrats, a lot of Democrats, a lot of the Obama supporters are sort of salivating right now because Paul Ryan has said for folks under 55 years old he wants dramatic changes in the way Medicare is conducted. And they think this is going to open up a great opportunity for them to go after him on one of the most popular programs that the federal government has.

But, you know, this is going to be a good serious debate on serious issues. Paul Ryan is not someone who likes to get into the mud and starts name calling or anything like that. He likes to discuss important economic issues. He is, after all, a student of Jack Kemp, the late congressman from New York state. The former housing secretary and the vice presidential running mate of Bob Dole back in 1996. He learned from Jack Kemp and that's the kind of Republican he's going to be. So I wouldn't necessarily -- if I were a Democrat and I were an Obama supporter, I wouldn't necessarily be, you know, high-fiving each other right now because this is going to be a serious, strong debate.

KAYE: Wolf Blitzer, nice to have you on the program this morning. And we're going to see you coming up just a little bit later on about 7:00 a.m. Eastern again.

Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Randi.

KAYE: All those Obama attack ads criticizing Romney may finally be taking a toll. We are taking a look at the ads and how they're shaping people's opinions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: The bottom of the hour now. Welcome back everyone, I'm Randi Kaye. The latest now on our breaking news, sources telling CNN that Mitt Romney will pick rising Republican star Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate.

The announcement by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is expected at 9:00 am Eastern in Norfolk, Virginia, where Romney is kicking off a four-day bus tour through the battleground states.

Just yesterday when asked about the VP rumors, Ryan refused to speculate.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is in Washington this morning.

Gloria, good morning to you. What is the initial reaction at this early hour in our nation's capital and how is this being received so far?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there are a lot of Republicans who are stunned by the news, because this is really a bold stroke, in a way. And because Paul Ryan is so risky. Paul Ryan is very controversial. He became the face of his own budget plan, which essentially calls for turning Medicare into a voucher system.

Don't forget, the Democrats, a while ago, ran an ad which actually had Paul Ryan or someone who looked like him, pushing an old lady off a wheelchair, because he was about to take away her Medicare. So he's a lightning rod for Democrats.

On the other hand -- and this is what some Republicans are applauding -- it's a bold move by Mitt Romney. They didn't think he had it in him. And it's a bold move because this is somebody who will focus the debate on entitlement reform, on the economy, what we're going to do about the debt.

So, in a way, Mitt Romney is really doubling down on his economic argument. And I was talking to a former Romney adviser about this. And he said to me, he said, you know what, Paul Ryan is exactly like somebody Mitt Romney would have hired at Bain Capital. He's young, he's smart, he gets the subject and he's kind of a fellow wonk, which is what Romney is. He likes to look at numbers about as much as Romney does.

KAYE: Yes.

Let me bring in Wolf Blitzer as well.

Wolf, what do you think? I mean, how much do you think people will look at Paul Ryan's experience. I mean, he's 42 years old. He has no foreign policy experience. He's never run a statewide campaign. Will that play a role here?

BLITZER: I think he's a really smart guy. And he's going to be up to speed very soon. Remember that debate he will have in October with Vice President Joe Biden. And when it comes for foreign policy, that's Joe Biden's real strength. And so he's going to have to come up and he's going to have to learn all of the key issues, whether issues involving war and peace -- and certainly there's a lot of tense spots right now with Iran, or with China, with Syria, with North Korea. He's going to have to do a lot of studying. He has been a member, as you know, of the -- he's the chairman of the Budget Committee, he's a member of the Ways and Means Committee. The domestic economic issues are his real bread and butter. That's his real strength.

And when all is said and done, unless the U.S. is in a real war and there's a national security crisis, those are the issues, the economic related issues, which will determine this race. It is, after all, the economy, stupid, still after all of these years, especially during a time of tough economic pain which is what the country is still going through right now.

So, yes, he'll learn. He'll come up to speed on the national security issues, but the real issues, most important issues, as far as the electorate is concerned, will be the economic issues. And on those issues, he's very strong.

KAYE: Wolf, let me stay with you on this one, though. What about the minority vote? I mean you have a Mitt Romney and a Paul Ryan, if it indeed is true, on the ticket.

BLITZER: Well, I think for the most part, the Romney folks have almost given up, certainly on the African-American vote. They think -- you know, the president, what, got 94 percent, 95 percent of the African- American vote last time. They think he's going to do almost as well. Where they're hoping is that there will be a little more lethargic African-American vote, that folks in Virginia, or in Pennsylvania, or in Ohio, in Florida, won't show up in the big, big numbers, record numbers almost that they showed up four years ago, although the president will do overwhelmingly -- he will get overwhelming support in the African-American community and probably in the Hispanic community as well. I don't know if he has done a lot of outreach in the Hispanic community, Paul Ryan.

So for all practical purposes, he's probably not going to really help Mitt Romney score a lot of points with those two communities.

Where he will help, where he will dramatically help Mitt Romney is he's going to energize the conservative base out there. There was some lethargy out on the conservative base as well. And you're going to need huge turnout. He's going to really help in getting that turnout from conservatives, not only in the Midwest battleground states, but all over the country, because he's a good campaigner, he's a good speaker and he'll do well. So he'll really get some of that conservative base going. And if turnout is going to be one of the most important factors, come November 6th.

KAYE: Wolf Blitzer, Gloria Borger, thank you both very much. We'll see you both again at the top of the hour.

And be sure to stay with CNN this morning as Mitt Romney unveils his running mate. It happens at 9:00 am Eastern, live from Norfolk, Virginia. CNN is there and we'll bring it to you live.

He tackled the issue of entitlement reform and earned both praise and criticism for it, as we've been telling you. Still to come, why Paul Ryan says he has no fear about his message to fix Medicare.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: More now on our breaking news in the race for the White House. In just hours, sources tell CNN that Mitt Romney will announce that Paul Ryan is his running mate. That's expected to happen at 9:00 am Eastern in Norfolk, Virginia. That's where Romney is kicking off a four-day bus tour through battleground states. And just yesterday, when asked about the VP rumors, Ryan refused to speculate.

CNN's Candy Crowley joins me now, from Washington.

And on the phone, CNN contributor and columnist for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast," John Avalon is with us as well.

Candy, good morning.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

KAYE: So Romney's insiders have been vetting VP picks for months now. Why do you think they decided on Congressman Ryan?

CROWLEY: I actually think this pick says a lot about where Mitt Romney and his team see the state of the election. We've had two things for a year and a half. We've had Mitt Romney talking about how the Obama economy is what this election is about. We've had the president saying, this is about a choice. It's about one philosophy versus another.

Putting Ryan on the ticket, I think it buys into that message, actually, from the president. I think Mitt Romney is saying, game on here. Let's do policy. I think it strengthens -- certainly, there are differences between Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and the guy at the top of the ticket always wins those differences. But they are nuanced, and this will be -- and Democrats will make it and Republicans will welcome it, a -- now, a -- look, you can go this way or you can go that way.

So, I think it says that the Romney team has heard some of the criticism which has been, you just can't go out there and hit Barack Obama about the economy. You've got to talk about what you would do. And I think this pick elevates that conversation and I think it tells you where -- that Mitt Romney has signed onto that.

KAYE: And, John, what do you think? I mean, what do you think makes Ryan stand out from all of the other VP contenders?

JOHN AVALON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Candy makes a great point to the extent that the days of Mitt Romney having -- running a policy- free campaign are over. This may be the first time that a presidential nominee has outsourced his policy operation to his VP pick.

Paul Ryan has very specific, detailed plans about what he would do to reduce the deficit and the debt. And now Mitt Romney owns those, for better or for worse.

But this is a bold pick; it is not without risk but it is a bold pick. This is not the kind of safe pick that might be made to simply try to move a state into the Romney column, like, say, a Senator Rob Portman from Ohio.

This is a pick that will absolutely energize the Republican base, because of policies, not just politics. This is a pick that will also, I think, help energize the youth vote. Paul Ryan is just 42 years old.

So this is a really doubling down also, as Candy said, on the economic argument the Romney team wants to have. And so I think they deserve a lot of credit for not playing it safe but going bold with the pick of Paul Ryan.

KAYE: And, Candy, will this turn into a debate about entitlement, given his stance on Medicare and tax reform and everything else that Paul Ryan has put forward?

CROWLEY: Oh, and if it does, Team Romney will be pleased, because let's look at what the conversation has been for the last six weeks. It's been about where are your tax returns, it's been about horses in the Olympics. It has been very, very difficult for Mitt Romney to get an economic message out there.

So this makes it very obvious. And there's so many people, economists and folks on The Hill that will tell you you can't actually talk about how to fix the economy unless you talk about these third rail issues, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. And one point to the idea that, yes, everybody said, yes, this is going to excite conservatives. I think the other thing that this pick tells you about where Mitt Romney sees this campaign going is that, yes, there will be this bold clash of ideas and, certainly, what Paul Ryan does is brighten that line.

But it also tells you that they believe this is a turnout race, that this is about -- and we've seen it close, the polls have widened a little bit in the president's favor, seven points, I think, in our poll. But everybody believes they will go back some. So if this still stays a close race going into the fall, this is about both these candidates getting out there and understanding this is a turnout race. And Paul Ryan is a turnout pick.

KAYE: Yes.

And, John, what about the independent voters? I mean, where will they fall looking at a Romney-Ryan ticket?

AVALON: Well, on the surface they will like the Romney -- the Ryan pick a lot, because it is bold, because it is energetic. It offers specifics on deficit and debt. And this is an issue independent voters care about a lot, even in the Midwest. You talk to independent voters, they worry a lot about the deficit and the debt. And this is a pick that addresses that.

Now when the Ryan plan comes under scrutiny, as the Obama camp will do, starting today, those specifics will scare some people off. People like to talk about entitlement reform in abstract, but when it comes to actually dealing with Social Security or Medicare, Medicaid, as Paul Ryan has done in his plan, that makes some folks nervous.

So, again, that's one element of the risk of this pick. It is real. It is a clash of ideas and philosophies.

But Paul Ryan to his great credit, a lot of Republican Congressmen are happy to demagogue the deficit and the debt, but they don't want to deal with it. And Paul Ryan has put a plan on paper. And Romney now owns that plan. So there is a sharp contrast, and it's not just rhetorical anymore. This goes way beyond bumper sticker policies and politics. There is a -- the Ryan plan will come under a lot of scrutiny for better or for worse in coming days. And it will be part of the decision that people make come the fall.

KAYE: Candy, what's the Obama administration's next move on this? I mean, they have to have been ready for this.

CROWLEY: Sure. It's -- they were ready for, you know, any number of things. I think they also sort of looked at Portman. But, listen, in the last couple of days, there were a lot of signals out there that pointed to Paul Ryan, including the venue today on the U.S.S. Wisconsin, et cetera, et cetera.

So -- and there has been such a huge public push from conservatives, particularly in print, for Paul Ryan, that they are ready for this. But let's also remember, they've had this fight before. I mean, they already have files on the Ryan plan because it was put up to a House vote. So it is the basis of the budget that the House passed.

So, they are well versed in the Ryan plan, and they are waiting and they have been waiting. I mean, it was one of those things they kept saying, oh, please, please, let Paul Ryan be the guy. I will tell you that it will be interesting, because this is not a man that has even -- Paul Ryan -- that's been tested statewide, much less nationwide, in the fine art of campaigning.

He has to go out -- I mean, he serves as the biggest surrogate campaigner out there. And he's a wonky guy, he's actually a very personable guy. He's got a really interesting backstory. And he plays well in the Midwest. He's a bowsman, he's a hunter, he's a fisherman. So there's lots to kind of recommend him to the kind of folks that the Romney team is trying to attract.

But we just don't know. He just is not, on the surface, one of those, gee whiz, go out there and really give them hell Joe Biden kind of campaigner. So he's a different kind of guy on a campaign, something we're used to seeing.

KAYE: Candy Crowley, John Avalon, nice to chat with you both. Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Randi.

AVALON: Thank you.

KAYE: Paul Ryan's stance on benefits has drawn a whole lot of criticism from Democrats. We've been talking about that this morning. Some call him the poster child for slashing entitlement. See what he says about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Welcome back. I'm Randi Kaye. Ten minutes until the top of the hour. We're live with breaking news on the race for the White House. Sources are telling CNN that in just a few hours, Mitt Romney will introduce Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.

The much awaited announcement is expected to happen at 9:00 am Eastern time. That will be in Norfolk, Virginia, where crews are already setting up. The 42-year-old Ryan chairs the House Budget Committee. He's frequently pushed the Republican so-called class warfare line against President Obama and is a major critic of the Obama administration's signature health care reform law.

Take a look at this scene from just yesterday, when reporters asked Ryan about the VP speculation.

He told them, he just wouldn't get into it.

Democrats in Congress have attacked Paul Ryan and the so-called Ryan plan. They've made him the poster child for a Republican determined to cut entitlements like Medicare. But he is not backing down. He sat down with CNN's senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, last July.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: Well, let's say the Ryan plan, even though you don't like to call it that, has become the centerpiece -- the Ryan plan has become the centerpiece of the discussion.

RYAN: That's right.

BORGER: In the -- not only in the congressional debate, but also in the presidential debate. And you once told a reporter -- I'm going to quote this back at you -- "I don't expect it to become the platform of the party." But kind of looks like it is.

RYAN: Yes, I mean, I've never had those kind of ambitions. I've been just trying to moving the debate forward so that we can actually attack these problems before they attack us. I mean, literally, just the way the math works and the budget and debt and deficit, we will start losing control of the situation. Interest alone will get us.

By 2025, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest consume 100 percent of all federal revenues. That just shows you how fast this is getting out of control. And so it is becoming the issue. What we're trying to do is simply give the country a choice, show them an option and literally put a plan on the table to fix the problem.

BORGER: Well, the Democrats obviously have a different view of it.

RYAN: Of course.

BORGER: And you have become the poster child, whether you like it or not. And one Democrat said to me, if they didn't have you, they would have to invent you.

RYAN: That's right. That's right. That's right. So the way I look at this is, I think from the Left perspective, they would like to nullify the notion that there's an alternative path for the country than the one that they've laid down over the last two years.

BORGER: Not just the Left.

RYAN: So --

BORGER: It's not just the Left. There's moderates --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: (Inaudible).

BORGER: There are moderates who disagree with you because you don't have taxes.

RYAN: Well, we do have taxes, we've reformed the code.

BORGER: Well, OK --

RYAN: We get rid of the loopholes in order to lower the rates to have a more competitive tax system. So we -- believe me, nobody wants to get rid of crony capitalism and the tax code loopholes more than we. We're the first ones to propose it.

We just want to do it in a way to make our tax system more competitive for job creation, for entrepreneurs to be able to succeed in the international economy. But I would simply say --

BORGER: But --

RYAN: -- I think there's a plan here, or there's -- the preference to try and delegitimize an alternative path for the country than the one that we're on right now. And I would simply argue the path we're on right now is a debt crisis, it's managing our decline. It is moving us toward more of a kind of cradle-to-grave welfare state, where able- bodied people are not allowed to have the equal opportunity to rise up, and become more self -- you know, independent.

I worry we're creating so much government spending in debt that it will slow down our economy and produce more people who are dependent upon the government than they are upon themselves. And I think that's very dangerous for society.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: If Mitt Romney does choose Paul Ryan as his running mate, not everyone will be surprised. We'll show you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: In just a matter of hours, Mitt Romney is expected to officially announce his running mate. All bets are on Wisconsin Congressman and rising GOP superstar Paul Ryan. If he is, in fact, Romney's choice, it may not come as a surprise to many. Ryan has topped the list of frontrunners for months and he has been a constant presence on the campaign well before Romney officially clinched the GOP nomination in April. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Mitt Romney asks you to run as his vice president, would you agree to do so?

(APPLAUSE)

RYAN: Next question. You know, that's somebody else's decision months away and that's a conversation I need to have with my wife before I have it all with you.

We're going to make a big choice in this country. What kind of country do we want to have? We want an opportunity society. We want upward mobility. We want people to be able to reach their potential. We want a safety net that gets people back on their feet, not a hammock that lulls them into lives of complacency and dependency. We look at Europe, and we see where they're headed, and we don't want to go in that direction.

We need a leader who has a moral compass, who has a vision for this country. We need a leader with a bedrock of principles and an ability to put that vision into place. That leader is Mitt Romney.

(APPLAUSE)

RYAN: All right, you bet. Thank you.

ROMNEY: Thank you. Nice work. Thank you.

RYAN: All right. Awesome. Awesome.

Thanks, everybody.

ROMNEY: Thank you.

Congressman Paul Ryan, that is a man who takes responsibility and is a courageous leader. And whether you agree with him or not on every issue, this is a person who has led a very clear path for our party and for our nation.

And I appreciate the fact that we've got a Wisconsinite who is a real leader in Washington and I hope that we continue to see his kind of leadership in our nation's capital. We need more of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Thanks so much for watching this morning. I'm Randi Kaye. CNN's special coverage of Mitt Romney's VP announcement continues right now with my colleague, Wolf Blitzer, in Washington.

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