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Romney Picks Rep. Ryan for V.P.; How Romney Chose Ryan; Paul Ryan's Roots in Wisconsin; Interview with Newt Gingrich; Interview with Chris Van Hollen; Paul Ryan Addresses Supporters in North Carolina

Aired August 12, 2012 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The decision is made.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an honor to announce my running mate and the next vice president of the United States, Paul Ryan.

BLITZER: Now a look at Paul Ryan. The man.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Janesville, Wisconsin, is where I was born and raised, and I never really left it. Every politician is bound --

BLITZER: The lawmaker.

RYAN: I have focused on solving the problems that confront our country.

BLITZER: And his impact on the race for the White House.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In this special hour, we're taking a close look at the man Mitt Romney has asked to join him on the Republican presidential ticket, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Fittingly, Romney made the big announcement in front of the battleship, the USS Wisconsin.

Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, made a name for himself here in Washington by battling deficits and fighting for cuts in government spending. Listen to how Mitt Romney broke the news.


ROMNEY: It's an honor to announce my running mate and the next vice president of the United States, Paul Ryan.


ROMNEY: His leadership -- his leadership begins with character and values. Paul is a man of tremendous character shaped in large part by his early life. Paul's father died when he was in high school. That forced him to grow up earlier than any young man should. But Paul did. With the help of his devoted mother, his brothers and sister, and a supportive community. And as he did, he internalized the virtues and hardworking ethic of the Midwest.

Paul Ryan works in Washington, but his beliefs remain firmly rooted in Janesville, Wisconsin.


ROMNEY: He's a person of great steadiness whose integrity is unquestioned and his word is good. Paul's upbringing is obvious in how he's conducted himself throughout his life including his leadership in Washington.

In a city that's far too often characterized by pettiness and personal attacks, Paul Ryan is a shining exception. He doesn't demonize his opponents. He understands that honorable people can have honest differences. And he appeals to the better angels of our nature.

There are a lot of people in the other party who might disagree with Paul Ryan. I don't know of anyone who doesn't respect his character and judgment.



BLITZER: Paul Ryan was only 28 years old when he was first elected to the United States Congress. He served seven terms, almost 14 years. At 42, he's the same age as the eldest of Romney's five sons. Ryan's Catholic with a wife and three young children.


RYAN: I want you to meet my family. That's my wife, Jana. Our daughter, Liza, and our sons Charlie and Sam.

I'm surrounded by the people I love.


RYAN: I love you, too.


RYAN: Janesville, Wisconsin, is where I was born and raised, and I never really left it. It's our home now. For the last 14 years, I have proudly represented Wisconsin in Congress. There -- there I have focused on solving the problems that confront our country, turning ideas into action, and action into solutions.

I am committed in heart and mind to putting that experience to work in a Romney administration.


RYAN: My dad died when I was young. He was a good and decent man. There are few things he would say that have just always stuck with me. He'd say, son, you're either part of the problem or part of the solution. Well, regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem, and Mitt Romney is the solution.


RYAN: I represent a part of America that includes inner cities, rural areas, suburbs and factory towns. Over the years, I have seen and heard from a lot of families. From a lot of those who are running small businesses. And from people who are in need. But what I've heard lately, that's what troubles me the most.

There's something different in their voice, in their words. What I hear from them are diminished dreams, lowered expectations. Uncertain futures. I hear some people say that this is just the new normal.


RYAN: Higher unemployment, declining incomes, and crushing debt is not a new normal.


RYAN: I've worked closely with Republicans as well as Democrats. To advance an agenda of economic growth, fiscal discipline, and job creation.


BLITZER: Paul Ryan's name was certainly on many people's short lists of vice presidential possibilities. Still the choice is somewhat surprising and carries some very definite risks.

Our chief national correspondent John King is here to assess what's going on.

You spent a lot of time studying Paul Ryan. And you've looked at the pluses he brings to the ticket and some of the minuses.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's bold and risky all at once, Wolf. The biggest plus is the immediate one you see. Governor Romney had a bit of a swagger, he was looser, he seemed the better candidate. This is the first oh, yes, I'm the nominee, I'm the leader of my party. He made that big pick and you could see him a little looser today.

Look, the American people are going to decide between Governor Romney and President Obama. But can Paul Ryan help? Here's some of the pluses. And you see evidence already. He energizes a Republican base that has been somewhat suspicious of Governor Romney. You can see it already. People saying this is a big ideas guy. We want him there.

He's a very energetic debater and he's campaigner, 42, you mentioned that. You could see it today. He adds youthful vigor to the race right out of the bat. A good and a strong campaigner. But there are some downsides. He has never run, meaning he's never won, statewide. So can he help Mitt Romney? Can he put Wisconsin in the Republican column? That's a big question mark. The candidates will be together. Their first event in Wisconsin and in the Milwaukee suburbs. That's the key test there. Zero foreign policy experience. People are saying Governor Romney's also weak there. The Democrats will make that an issue. And on the one hand, 42 is youthful vigor. On the other hand, some will say is a 42-year- old House member ready to become commander in chief?

BLITZER: Without any real national security and foreign policy experience. And most of his experience has been within Washington and government or in think tanks, a legislative aid. He doesn't bring, for example, the experience in the private sector that Mitt Romney would bring to the -- to the ticket.

KING: Right. And so you'll have on the one hand, as Paul Ryan said today, there was a great combination. Here's a guy from the outside. He was a governor, a chief executive, a businessman. He doesn't have Washington experience. I'm a guy who can help him navigate the nooks and crannies of the bureaucracy. He says he's worked with Democrats.

Governor Romney is right when he says Democrats respect Paul Ryan. They disagree with him on just about everything when it comes to solutions. But they do respect him as someone who comes to the table with ideas, not just with rhetoric and partisanship.

BLITZER: Yes, he's a likeable kind of guy. That's what you hear from a lot of Democrats as well.

Now today I spent part of the day going through a lot of the interviews I've done with him over the past few years. I want to play this little clip and then I want to talk about it with you. It's about taxes, which is a very, very sensitive issue.


RYAN: Not only are we open to tax reform as you describe it, it's in our budget. What we propose in our budget that passed the House is get rid of these loopholes in exchange for lowered rates. And what we want to do is get rid of these loopholes. All of these loopholes in exchange for lowering everybody's and every business's tax rates to make us more globally competitive.


BLITZER: He doesn't like the fact, for example, that a company like GE pays no taxes for whatever reason. He wants to do away with those kinds of loopholes, different tax rates for UPS as opposed to DHL. He goes into some specific details.

Is that orthodoxy as far as that conservative base which some of -- some of whom see any reduction in those loopholes as an affect the tax hike.

KING: It's becoming orthodoxy to the extent that flatter, simpler, fairer. And to get away with even some of these offshore tax shelters. Even Governor Romney who's been criticized, aha, is he hiding some of his money overseas says let's get rid of those. However, some Republicans draw the line that they won't take that tax reform if in the end it brings more revenue to Washington.

What Paul Ryan says is, I'm not really going to worry about that. If we simplify the tax code, if the end result is more money for Washington, great. He says it's critical that, Wolf, A, to make it simpler for middle-class families, but he'll be very honest about this. He says the main goal, he thinks, is for businesses. If you take away those stacks of the tax code, you make it simple, you get rid of all the loopholes, he thinks more money goes into the economy, you get economic growth, more of a Reagan/Kemp supply side.

BLITZER: And he repeatedly said to me in these interviews he wants to work with Democrats. He'd love to find some compromise. That hasn't happened lately but maybe -- maybe it will happen down the road.

KING: With these issues front and center on the table, maybe whoever wins the election might have a bit of a mandate to govern. Maybe.

BLITZER: We'll see. All right. John, thanks very, very much.

We're only just beginning our special hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We have inside information on how Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan. Stay with us for a window into his decision-making process.



TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: Governor Romney's selection of Paul Ryan is a -- is a terrific selection. Paul Ryan is a bold leader with great ideas for trying to get this country back on track. And I think he and Governor Romney together will make a great team.


BLITZER: Tim Pawlenty there, the former two-term governor of Minnesota, once again, not the finalist. He was close but not close enough four years ago. He was first runner-up when John McCain was looking for a vice presidential running mate. He was up there this time around but obviously didn't get it.

A Romney campaign aide says the decision to put Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket was made on August 1st. We also have exclusive information about Romney's selection process.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, spoke with Beth Myers who headed Romney's search for a running mate.




BORGER: In the vetting and the process of choosing a vice presidential running mate which is very, very important. It's the first chance people get to look at how a president makes decisions. So what is it about the process of choosing a vice president, what does that tell us about how Mitt Romney makes decisions?

MYERS: Well, that's something I've learned working with him as chief of staff in the governor's office for four years. There is a way, because he's very methodical in making his decisions. And what he wants is a couple things. First of all, he wants all the information. And we went about a very thorough process in making sure we had a lot of information about a broad group. He also doesn't like to rule anything out until he has to. You know, the first swath was brought. We got a good cut of information about a lot of people.

He then narrowed it down. And we got even more information. We got personal information from each of the potential candidates. And at that point, again, we had some attorneys look through and go through everybody's record to make sure that there was, you know, I didn't want to miss anything about them. And then Mitt took these candidate dossiers, and he thought about them. He read all of them word for word. I had talked with each of the candidates personally. He had -- he had obviously been campaigning with a lot of the folks that he was considering.

And he read the dossiers. And we've narrowed it down once again. And we did, you know, an even more deep dive on them. And then gave them the final product. And he's thinking about it now.

BORGER: Does he solicit your advice or --


MYERS: He solicits the advice of a small group of his advisers. But then he asks, I think, everybody he meets. You know, what's your thought on this?


BORGER: And he listens?

MYERS: He listens. I mean, he asks -- you know, sort of people you wouldn't think that he'd ask about it. He talks to, you know, he calls friends from all walks of his life, all across the country, wanting to mow what they think . He listens to that. And then he -- but I haven't told him -- I have not shared with him my opinion because I think it's important that I'm the objective --

BORGER: So it's his comfort level with someone.


BORGER: And his feeling that person's qualified to be --


BORGER: -- president. MYERS: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, obviously, his first qualification is that the person is qualified to be president. And perceived to be qualified.


BLITZER: Gloria is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Gloria, good interview. I'm glad you did that. Let's talk a little bit about what this says about Mitt Romney, what it says about Paul Ryan, the impact of all of this on the campaign.

BORGER: Well, first of all, I think, as Beth Myers says, it shows you that Mitt Romney is somebody who likes to look at all the data when he's making a decision, and the way she describes it is as someone who's very methodical.

I also think he had to be personally comfortable with the person he was going to put on the ticket. But aside from that, Wolf, I think it tells us something about where this campaign is headed. I think they took a look at the campaign, and they said, gee, we cannot run just against President Obama's economy where they would have been up five or seven points by now.

Instead they're not. It's been either flat, or they've been down. So they said, look. We need to focus this campaign. And what they've done by putting Paul Ryan on the ticket -- and this is not without some risk -- is they focus this campaign and said, look, this is about the future, the economic future of this country. They want to talk about spending. They want to talk about tax cuts. They want to talk about deficits. And use that as a way to talk about the economy and where they would take it.

BLITZER: Looks like they've got a good, good relationship.


BLITZER: And it looks like they've energized this campaign. We'll see what happens, Gloria.

BORGER: This is day one, right?

BLITZER: Day one. We'll see what happens day two, tomorrow. Thanks very, very much.

Paul Ryan's Midwestern roots, how his Wisconsin hometown shaped his political beliefs. That and a lot more straight ahead.


BLITZER: When Mitt Romney first introduced his new running mate, he said Paul Ryan's beliefs remain firmly rooted in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. That's where CNN's Athena Jones is right now.

What are you finding out, Athena? ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, here we are right outside of Paul Ryan's house. But you know we spent the whole day talking to people all across town. And as you might imagine, Wolf, people here are of two minds about Congressman Ryan and what it will mean for the Republican ticket.


JONES (voice-over): Folks here in Paul Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, are reacting to the big news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's an excellent candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I personally don't like what he stands for.

JONES: The seven-term congressman who comes from a prominent local family is well known in this town of 63,000 southwest of Milwaukee. He attended school here, is a parishioner of the Catholic Church and his brick home on a quiet street sits near the home of extended family. Neighbors describe him as down-to-earth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've spoken to him in the neighborhood. So we're friendly that way. Just a downhome kind of -- kind of guy. You know, he's in the Labor Day parade with his kids and his daughter was selling lemonade.

JONES: At a water ski tournament on the river, voters celebrated what they called Ryan's vision and expressed hope that he will help the GOP win this traditionally blue state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that he's got the country -- wants to get the country going where it needs to be going. Budget wise. And the economy. And -- but it also makes you feel good as a Wisconsinite. So I hope that helps some of the other people who are on the fence or whichever to lean on over.

JONES: While at the farmers' market just down the street from Ryan's district office, voters applauded Romney's choice for different reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was very excited and inspired.

JONES (on camera): Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because Paul has a great vision for America, and I think he's the right choice.

JONES (voice-over): Some Democrats say the pick many conservatives are hailing as bold and outstanding because of Ryan's commitment to deep budget cuts will end up boosting the Democratic ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm totally elated.

JONES (on camera): Why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's going to be easier for the Democrats now. I think they can -- they can attack two guys, two birds with one stone, and there are fiscal restrain, read the records. They stand for the 1 percent. And they're going to gut the -- they're going to gut all the programs for the poor.

JONES (voice-over): Both detractors and supporters have good things to say about Ryan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He sticks to his beliefs. And he's a big advocate for the district. I think he's a hardworking person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's a man of integrity.

JONES: But one thing voters we spoke with from both parties seemed a bit unsure of is whether the 42-year-old is ready to be president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's not old enough yet to know what he's doing.

JONES (on camera): Do you think that Paul Ryan, he's 42, do you think he's ready to be president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know yet. I mean, that's kind of young.


JONES: Now, as you know, Wolf, I don't have to tell you that Wisconsin has been a reliably blue state for years. Ronald Reagan was the last Republican presidential candidate to win it back in 1984. But it's been a -- a bit of a mixed bag. President Obama won this county, Rock County, with 64 percent of the vote in 2008.

But of course, Paul Ryan has been elected seven times. So while there are plenty of Democrats around here, there are also plenty of Republicans. It will be interesting to see how the state goes in November -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see if Paul Ryan can turn things around in Wisconsin for the Republicans.

Athena Jones, thanks very, very much.

Mitt Romney's former Republican presidential rival Newt Gingrich, he's standing by to join us with his take on Paul Ryan. That's next.


BLITZER: We're continuing our in-depth look at the man who will be a heartbeat away -- a heartbeat away from the presidency if, huge if, still, if Mitt Romney wins the November election. We're talking about his new running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

The selection of Paul Ryan is being applauded by several of Romney's primary season opponents, including Newt Gingrich, who's joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for coming in. FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA.: It's great to be with you, and it's a very exciting day for Callista and me. We've known Paul -- she knew Paul since he was an intern with Bob Kasten, Senator Bob Kasten. So there's a long sense -- and she's a Wisconsinite. There's a lot of identity with Paul Ryan.

BLITZER: Senator Bob Kasten from Wisconsin back in the '90s. Would he have been your pick if you had gotten -- won the Republican presidential nomination?

GINGRICH: Well, he certainly would have been on the very short list. And I was asked the other day in some editorial board, if you're looking for somebody to think strategically, who would you want in that room? And I just immediately said Paul Ryan. Here's a guy who has mastered the budget, but more importantly, he was one of the key players in creating a Republican majority in the House in 2010. He knows how to focus the disciplined, get key things done. And yet he's a very down-to-earth kind of guy. If you look at his life in Janesville and his family, he's going to resonate with middle America, and he's going to resonate with Midwesterners.

BLITZER: He's got a wonderful family. And he is well liked. But the Democrats are going after him already. You shouldn't be surprised. On some of the substantive policy issues, which is fine. I want to see a good, strong, policy-oriented debate instead of focusing on trivial things.

And they're pointing to some of his budget proposals and the impact it would have on low-income families. For example, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities say his programs would cut $3.3 trillion in low- income programs, another $2 trillion over 10 years in other low-income programs. They say 62 percent of the cuts would come from low-income programs. So does this represent a problem down the road for him in this race over the next 87 days or so?

GINGRICH: Well, I think actually it's the reason that it makes Governor Romney's choice courageous and correct. This is going to be a campaign about policy. Paul Ryan can defend what he's trying to accomplish.

For example, in New York State Medicaid, over 10 percent is fraud. Over $4 billion a year. Now, if we modernize Medicaid, we're not hurting the poor. Yet we're going to spend a lot less money if we just stop paying the crooks.

BLITZER: Waste, fraud and abuse. While it's important -- and don't get me wrong, it's very important -- that's not going to necessarily cause massive budget reductions.

GINGRICH: Well, but in Medicare and Medicaid, it's probably between $70 billion and $110 billion a year.

BLITZER: I don't know where are you getting that number?

GINGRICH: That number comes from first of all the New York Times, General Accounting Office. The level of fraud in some of these programs is astonishing.

So I think you'd see with the Ryan approach an effort to decentralize back to the states, to go to a much less expensive program, and the fact is, this is what Obama and Biden are going to have to answer. If you don't want to cut anywhere, how are you ever going to get out of this massive deficit problem, and how do you avoid becoming Greece? By the way, Greece now has 54 percent unemployment among young Greeks.

BLITZER: They say they want to cut, the Democrats, but not necessarily the areas that you want to see the cuts. They want to cut some of the tax relief for the wealthiest of Americans, some of the big corporations, reduce some of those loopholes. We're not going to get into that right now. But I do want you to hear what Vice President Joe Biden back in July, July 16th, said about Paul Ryan, because this sets the stage for an excellent vice presidential debate in October.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are decent, honorable men and women. I'm not playing the game, you know, these guys are bad guys. They just have a different values set as to what is the most important thing that we should be doing.

Just look at Congressman Ryan. A bright, bright guy. An honorable man. His budget, which has been embraced by, I believe, every member in the Republican side in the House of Representatives. You might remember the first Ryan budget last year, there was nothing subtle about it. It dismantled Medicare and would have turned it into a voucher program over a ten-year period.


BLITZER: Dismantled Medicare, turned it into a voucher program. Well, he did call -- and he has called Ryan for massive change in the way Medicare has operated for people who are under 55 years old. A voucher program.

GINGRICH: That's OK. Sure, but now wait a second. Let's start with facts. It is a fact that Vice President Biden represents the team that took $700 billion out of Medicare in order to pay for Obamacare. So here are the guys who have been gutting Medicare, trying to cover what they're doing by attacking.

Second, Congressman Ryan has worked very closely with Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. They have a bipartisan Medicare reform plan that allows you to keep the current plan if you want to, or it allows you to go to a defined payment plan. But you get to choose.

I think it's a very rational thing to do. It's something which many moderate and liberal organizations like Brookings have said ought to be done. And so I think that it will be interesting to see if we can have an honest debate over the future, because frankly, the Obama team was gutting Medicare, taking $700 billion, and putting it into Obamacare. BLITZER: I've interviewed him many times over the years. And I've always found him to be reasonable, ready to compromise with Democrats. I know some conservatives, maybe you weren't happy. He voted for the TARP legislation. He voted for the auto bailout, which the president obviously supported, Mitt Romney didn't support it at the time. He's got -- he wanted to extend all the Bush tax cuts -- that the conservatives like. Are some of these votes that he had going to undermine -- going to hurt him with your fellow Republicans?

GINGRICH: Well, I think he's going to have to explain some of them. But the fact is, he is seen by virtually every conservative activist in the country as one of the most courageous and most dedicated advocates of getting back to a balanced budget, controlling spending in Washington, returning power to the states. I think that it's very clear that Paul Ryan represents in the Jack Kemp tradition and the Ronald Reagan tradition the next generation of idea-oriented Republicans, and I think he's going to settle very well with the country who are going to find him to be courageous -- and as you just pointed out, very practical, willing to talk and be part of the real world.

BLITZER: I think he is on that sense. Vice President Biden, by the way, issued a press release saying that he called him to congratulate him on the selection, welcomed him to the race. The vice president urged Congressman Ryan to enjoy the day with his family. He said he looked forward to engaging him on the clear choice voters face this November.

This is going to be a good debate between these two men. I'm looking forward to it in November. I know you are -- in October, excuse me.

GINGRICH: In that sense, it was a great -- I think it was a courageous decision by Romney, because it creates a clear division. It says there are two futures for America. You get to choose which future. The American people get to make this decision. And it elevates the campaign from the trash talk we've been getting recently into a serious choice. And I hope that the Obama team will decide that they're actually willing to engage in a serious conversation.

BLITZER: I'm sure that there will be a very serious policy debate right now, which is what the American people want, they deserve, and there are clear differences between the Democratic ticket and the Republican ticket.

Mr. Speaker, we'll look forward to seeing you at the convention in Tampa.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

The Obama camp is already showing us how it plans to run against Paul Ryan. We'll get the White House reaction and other reaction. That's next.


SEN. ROB PORTMAN, R-OHIO: Great pick. He is a super guy. And he's, you know, a national voice on the most pressing issue that faces the country.


BLITZER: Senator Rob Portman of Ohio getting ready for a bike race today. He's certainly one of the finalists in this race for the vice presidential nod. Didn't get it, as we all know. The Obama campaign wasted no time in attacking Romney's choice, calling Paul Ryan's ideas, quote, radical. Our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is joining us now with more reaction. What are they saying over there at the campaign and elsewhere, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, you can expect to hear the word "Ryan" used as part of a phrase an awful lot between now and November from the Obama team. You'll hear it as part of the phrase "Romney/Ryan budget," or "extreme House Republican budget."

That's because their goal is to try to bind Mitt Romney to Paul Ryan's budget, which they believe is an example -- or they'll try to tie him to the narrative that they've already built, which is that Mitt Romney wants to give tax breaks to the upper-income Americans at the expense of middle-class Americans. And they think that the pick of Paul Ryan helps them make the case that he is committed to doing that. That will be what they'll try to do, Wolf.

They do know, as you can see, he's an enormously charismatic campaigner. But on the other hand, they can make this argument on entitlements and tax reform and on deficit cutting that Mitt Romney would go about it in a way that would hurt the middle class, whereas the president would not, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of Democrats believe, they say the Ryan budget helps them with seniors, especially in a state like Florida, for example, or Pennsylvania or Ohio. So is the Obama team targeting the seniors right now?

YELLIN: Absolutely, they are. But not just seniors. They also plan to target women, veterans, college students, and as I mentioned, middle-class voters, arguing that Paul Ryan's budget also includes cuts to programs that impact all those constituent groups, and that they will target all those constituent groups by pointing out there are ways Paul Ryan's budget would hurt them. So expect a targeted message that, again, this Romney/Ryan budget could be damaging to each of those groups, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica is over at the White House, thank you.

Joining us on the phone right now, someone who has worked closely with Paul Ryan, Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He's the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. The chairman of that committee is Paul Ryan, as we all know.

Congressman, thanks very much for talking to us. Tell us, what do you think of this decision by Mitt Romney?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD.: Well, Wolf, I've worked closely with Paul Ryan, and we get along personally, but we have very strong disagreements on budget issues and the economy. And I think this choice does crystallize a lot of issues in a way that's going to help the president, because what Mitt Romney is signaling by this decision is that he wants to double down on an economic plan that helps people like Mitt Romney at the expense of the rest of the country. At the expense of everybody else, because if you look at the Ryan and now Romney budget, that's exactly what it does. It provides these very big tax breaks to folks at the very high end of the income scale, and asks everybody else to sacrifice for the purpose of deficit reduction, while asking nothing from folks at the top.

BLITZER: He's made it clear to me in interviews over the years, he recognizes there needs to be compromise. He has to work with Democrats. Has that been your experience with him personally as the two top members of the Budget Committee?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Wolf, all I can say is that the Republicans have put forward their budget on the floor of the House. It's an uncompromising budget. They rejected every single one of the amendments that Democrats on the Budget Committee offered. It's a very lopsided approach compared to the bipartisan plans that have been recommended by groups like Simpson-Bowles or Rivlin-Domenici. It doesn't even come close. And it doesn't come close because all of those plans say that we need shared responsibility. And the Ryan plan doesn't ask the wealthiest to contribute one penny to deficit reduction. They ask everybody else to contribute, which is why it does hit seniors on Medicare, why it hits -- hits education budgets, and why it hits middle-income taxpayers.

BLITZER: Listen to this exchange that was caught on tape last year by ABC News between Paul Ryan and former President Bill Clinton. Listen to this. It's fascinating.




REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: I'm doing great.

CLINTON: It's good to see you.

RYAN: Good to see you, too.

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

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

CLINTON: Do you want to talk about it?

RYAN: Yes. I'll give you a call. Thanks.


BLITZER: Sounds like they were equally frustrated in that little conversation. I don't know if you could hear it as well as I could. What did you think?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, the reality is that the Democrats have put forward a number of proposals to modernize Medicare. We just have a very different way of doing it. Our way says that we need to put more focus on the value of care provided, as opposed to the current system, which provides a lot of focus on the volume of care. But the Republican plan that Ryan's put forward shifts the costs and the burdens onto seniors. And I know President Clinton does not support that plan.

What President Clinton supports is the kind of balanced approach that has been recommended by Simpson-Bowles, Rivlin-Domenici. Again, not every recommendation, but that framework, and I can tell you, Wolf, that the president's budget proposal comes a lot closer to that balanced approach than anything that Ryan or the Republicans in the House have put forward. In fact, Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of the committee, just wrote a column recently to say exactly that.

BLITZER: But, as you know, Paul Ryan was a member of the Erskine Bowles commission. He rejected it. But so did President Obama. He rejected it as well, even though he named that commission. So here's an area where, for different reasons, Paul Ryan and President Obama agree. They didn't like the Erskine Bowles recommendations.

VAN HOLLEN: What Bowles and Simpson have both said is that they looked at the president's budget proposal, and it comes a lot closer to the balanced approach they have proposed than the Republican budget that's been put forward in the House by Ryan and the House Republican leadership. And the reason for that is that the Ryan budget doesn't ask for one penny from the very wealthiest Americans to help reduce our deficit. And the math is pretty clear. If you say the wealthiest don't have to pay a penny more, it means your budget is going to sock it really hard to everybody else. And that's exactly what their budget does. And they've been very uncompromising about the approach they've taken. In fact, as you know, last summer, they threatened to have the United States default on its obligations for the first time in our history if we didn't enact their budget proposal.

BLITZER: Chris Van Hollen is the Democratic congressman from Maryland and a colleague of Paul Ryan on the House Budget Committee. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Paul Ryan has been on a mission to re-invent the Republican Party. We're going to talk about his ideological roots when we come back.



GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS.: I think it is a perfect compliment to put someone like Paul Ryan on, who -- I think both at the same time if it is hard to imagine -- will certainly excite the base not only here in Wisconsin but across America.


BLITZER: Probably right about that, Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor; Paul Ryan also from Wisconsin. Mitt Romney calls Paul Ryan an intellectual leader of the Republican Party, but some of his ideas weren't always in vogue with most Republicans. The New Yorker magazine published a fascinating profile of the congressman by its Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza, who tweeted this about Ryan Friday night -- and I am quoting now. "He's a very nice guy, but I would be flabbergasted if Romney picked him as VP." Ryan Lizza is also a CNN contributor. He is with us right now.

Why would you have been flabbergasted?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I just didn't think -- this is contrary to what I thought of as Romney's strategy in his election, and frankly, his character. He's not been someone -- he's played it safe in this election, and I thought his strategy going into this VP pick was focus on the economy, focus on the economy, don't make the race about yourself, don't make the race about your vice presidential candidate, and this changes that. This says, OK, I can't just rely on the bad economy, I can't just rely on Obama's failure. I've got to change this more to a choice between two big, bold, contrasting ideologies.

BLITZER: Today you wrote Romney has made the most daring decision of his political career. That's not just the last few weeks, but the career.

LIZZA: I think so. That's one way of -- another way of saying that is Romney usually plays it safe. Right? This is a gamble. We don't know. Paul Ryan's budget, the ideas --