Irish eyes will take even more of an interest in the upcoming US presidential race following the news that Irish-American Paul Ryan will be Republican hopeful Mitt Romney’s running mate.
Mr Romney’s pick, cast as a bold move by his party, is expected to transform the presidential race less than three months before November’s election, and the two men electrified crowds as they took to the stump.
The campaign also aims to sharply shift debate away from Mr Romney’s business record, taxes and image as an out-of-touch multimillionaire investor and toward larger issues such as how to revitalise the nation’s sputtering economy.
“We can turn this thing around. High unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is not a new normal. It’s the result of misguided policies,” he said to cheering supporters.
Mr Romney and Mr Ryan are pitching themselves as “America’s comeback team”, Republican turnaround artists willing to take on tough decisions facing the economy, entitlement programmes, and the role of government.
However, US President Barack Obama and his allies assert that adding the conservative Wisconsin congressman to the Republican ticket creates a sharp choice for voters on the future of the nation’s tax system and safety-net programmes, such as Medicare and social welfare.
Romney’s campaign was already treading carefully on Mr Ryan’s controversial plan to rework entitlement programmes. Asked how Mr Ryan’s budget plan fits into Mr Romney’s campaign, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden emphasised that Romney’s plan was distinct from his running mate’s.
“Governor Romney is at the top of the ticket. And Governor Romney’s vision for the country is something that Congressman Ryan supports,” he said.
Mr Romney’s selection of Mr Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate at the weekend set the contours for the autumn campaign: Mr Romney as a proponent of a friendlier business climate seeking to revitalise the economy and rein in federal spending while Mr Obama seeks to cast himself as a defender of middle-class families and federal spending on healthcare, pensions, and education.
It remains uncertain whether Mr Ryan, a fourth-generation Wisconsin native, will influence the race to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the White House.
Democrats say Mr Romney’s embrace of Mr Ryan, the architect of a controversial long-term budget plan remaking Medicare and cutting trillions in spending, could open the door for Mr Obama with older voters in key states such as Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Republicans say Mr Ryan could help put Wisconsin, which has traditionally voted Democratic in presidential campaigns, in play and the Catholic Midwesterner could appeal to blue-collar voters that Romney, a Mormon and multimillionaire, has struggled to reach.
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