TAMPA, Fla. — Paul Ryan is quoting his late father and promising better days ahead as he accepts his Republican Party’s vice presidential nomination and introduces himself to the nation.
In excerpts released Wednesday ahead of his speech, Ryan praises running mate Mitt Romney and decries President Barack Obama’s tenure, especially Democrats’ health care law. But he’s also drawing on his childhood in Janesville, Wis., in a speech that is as much about the experiences that formed the 42-year-old congressman as Romney’s plans to steady a nation’s struggling economy.
“My Dad used to say to me: ‘Son, you have a choice: you can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution,”’ Ryan said in the prepared text. “The present administration has made its choices. And Mitt Romney and I have made ours. Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation’s economic problems.”
Ryan is expected to talk about his Irish immigrant ancestors and small-town values, offering a personal presentation of a lawmaker largely known for sober policy analysis. The speech will likely be heavy on personality and light on policy, the latest example of Ryan deferring to Romney’s preferences. As Ryan puts it, Romney is “the boss.”
The hope among Romney’s team is that the nation gets to know Ryan’s story, one they say working-class voters could relate to. Left unsaid is the fact that Ryan’s conservative policy positions—specifically his contentious budget proposals like revamping Medicare — have caused headaches for Romney and dominated the storyline of the campaign since he was introduced as the running mate.
In the excerpts, Ryan pitched the GOP ticket as a package deal.
“We will not duck the tough issues. We will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others. We will take responsibility. We will not try to replace our founding principles. We will reapply our founding principles,” Ryan said in a nod to tea partyers who have not warmed to his running mate. “The work ahead will be hard. These times demand the best of us — all of us, but we can do th is. Together, we can do this.”
Ryan and his team, a mix of longtime aides and new advisers, spent a chunk of the past few weeks writing — and re-writing — the speech. Drafts were emailed from his campaign plane and his kitchen table in Janesville, Wis., to speechwriters in Tampa and top Romney advisers at the Boston campaign headquarters.
Early versions were scrapped and adjusted to include bits of Ryan’s natural, easygoing speaking style. In between campaign events and daily workouts, Ryan worked to put his own voice into the drafts. He is an experienced speechwriter, having served in that capacity for 1996 vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp and former Education Secretary William Bennett.
But at campaign events, Ryan has tended to favor policy over his personal story. From Ohio to Virginia to Florida, he talks more often about the nation’s debt and deficit than his own life as a congressional aide who became a congressman at age 28. He is more comfortable citing Congressional Budget Office statistics than real people.
Romney’s aides want that to change. Advisers are pushing Ryan toward more personal territory.
In his remarks, Ryan directly took on his critics.
“I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old,” Ryan said in a reference to Medicare and Social Security.
Ryan planned to talk not just about Romney’s promises to repair the economy and what they contend are Obama’s failures to do so, but also about self-reliance and optimism.
“I’m going to level with you: We don’t have that much time,” he said. “But if we are serious, and smart, and we lead, we can do this.”