WASHINGTON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - One of the first things
Congressman Paul Ryan said on Saturday when accepting the role
of Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate was that even
though he was in Congress he had "never really left" his
hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin in the American Midwest.
Ryan's focus on domestic issues and his reputation as a
rather wonky budget hawk confirm that Romney sees the November
contest with President Barack Obama as a referendum over the
U.S. economy and the size of the federal budget.
Still, although U.S. voters overwhelmingly cite economic
issues as their main concern, they also want reassurance that
their leaders can execute the role of commander-in-chief.
Introducing Ryan on Saturday, Romney said his new running
mate was ready. But Democrats are already aiming at what they
say is a dearth of national security experience on the
"I think his (Ryan's) experience as a vice presidential
candidate is thin; or for a future president and
commander-in-chief, it's virtually absent," said Tim Roemer, a
former congressman, former ambassador to India and member of the
commission that reported on the circumstances surrounding the
Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.
Obama had little foreign policy experience when he ran for
president in 2008 as Illinois' junior senator. He chose to
balance that by tapping Senator Joe Biden, who had a long
history of international experience and contacts, as his vice
None of the four men running for the two highest offices in
the land are military veterans.
Romney campaign officials contend that Ryan does bring
experience in the foreign policy department, particularly when
it comes to dealing with the defense budget.
"This election is going to be about which candidate has the
right vision for growing the economy and balancing our budget,
but Governor Romney chose Congressman Ryan first and foremost
because he's ready on day one to step in as commander-in-chief
should he need to assume that responsibility," said Ryan
spokesman Brendan Buck.
Romney and Ryan "share the view that America's leadership
position in the world is based on a robust national defense,
strengthened relationships with our allies and a philosophy of
peace through strength," Buck said.
In a speech last year, Ryan said U.S. fiscal policy and its
foreign policy were on a collision course. "If we fail to put
our budget on a sustainable path, then we are choosing decline
as a world power," he told the Alexander Hamilton Society in
Even as he has championed huge cuts in government spending,
Ryan has been protective of the Pentagon's budget, those in the
defense community say.
"Paul Ryan understands how important it is to get our fiscal
house in order, but also that short-sighted, budget-driven
defense strategies are not good for our defense," said
Representative Howard McKeon, the Republican chairman of the
House Armed Services Committee.
He said Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee,
worked to put billions of extra money into defense by finding
cuts in other areas in the budget that the Republican-run House
of Representatives approved this year.
"We had more in defense than the president asked for,"
McKeon said in a telephone interview.
What is known of Ryan's position on other national security
issues suggests that he is in the mainstream of Republican
How his choice will affect serious frictions within the
Romney campaign between foreign policy hard-liners and more
centrist advisers is unclear. Romney's rhetoric has tended to
reflect the hard-liners' views.
"My sense is that Ryan is just a generic Republican on
foreign policy," said Larry Sabato, director of the University
of Virginia Center for Politics.
"Ryan will have to be tutored in this subject prior to his
debate with Biden ... Biden will be loaded for bear in his own
area," Sabato said.
Ryan's website suggests he is in the Republican mainstream
when it comes to the war in Afghanistan. He offers no great
enthusiasm for the war, but does express concern that the pace
of the pullout of U.S. troops under Obama "has the potential to
pose security threats to soldiers" that stay behind.
Ryan's position as a strong supporter of Israel aligns him
with the majority of both parties in Congress. He does not
appear to have said a lot about the conflict in Syria, where
Obama's policy has sharply limited U.S. involvement.
Ryan's constant emphasis on fiscal soundness could play well
on the international stage, said Tom Donnelly, the director of
defense studies at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank
"There is one thing the world really wants to know about the
United States - will we get the government's financial house in
order?" Donnelly said.