(NORFOLK, Va.) — Mitt Romney rolled out his vice presidential running mate for the first time in the critical swing state of Virginia on Saturday.
Early Saturday morning, Romney’s campaign announced the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Budget Committee chairman who has energized fiscal conservatives with his budget proposals and sweeping plans for entitlement reform.
Romney and Ryan appeared together as running mates for the first time in Norfolk, Va., at a morning rally in front of the battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin.
WATCH: Mitt Romney Selects Paul Ryan as Running Mate
“I am deeply excited and honored to join you as your running mate,” Ryan said.
“Mitt Romney is a leader with the skills, the background and the character that our country needs at a crucial time in its history. Following four years of failed leadership, the hopes of our country, which have inspired the world, are growing dim; and they need someone to revive them. Governor Romney is the man for this moment; and he and I share one commitment: we will restore the dreams and greatness of this country,” Ryan said.
WATCH: Paul Ryan ‘Deeply Honored’ to Join Mitt Romney as Running Mate
Ryan is already viewed as a high-risk, high-reward pick for Romney, who had also considered former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, for the ticket. Romney notified Portman personally on Friday that he was not the choice for VP, ABC’s Gregory Simmons reported. Pawlenty spent time with Romney’s son Tagg on Friday, ABC’s Shushannah Walsh reported, and had learned by early Saturday morning that Ryan had been selected.
The Wisconsin congressman has made waves in national politics with his proposal to drastically alter the federal Medicare program–a suggestion that has been roundly attacked by Democrats including President Obama. Ryan’s plan would nearly voucherize the program, ending Medicare’s fee-for-service model and replacing payments to doctors with “premium-support payments” made directly to Medicare beneficiaries, with more money given to beneficiaries who can afford less.
The changes are projected to reduce Medicare spending significantly compared to projections of what taxpayers will have to pay for under current law, and the Congressional Budget Office initially estimated that beneficiaries will be saddled with a greater cost burden over time.
The Norfolk rally kicks off a bus tour for Romney through the swing state of Virginia, which Obama carried in 2008. On Saturday, Romney (and presumably Ryan) will continue on to Ashland and Manassas for a day of rallies that will last into the evening.
WATCH: Why Did Mitt Romney Choose Paul Ryan?
For months, Ryan, a seven-term Republican from Janesville, Wis., has danced around the VP question, refusing to comment on the vetting process and insisting that his focus is on his responsibilities in the House of Representatives.
Ryan has appeared publicly on the campaign trail alongside Romney multiple times, including an event in Janesville on June 18. He also attended a Romney fundraising weekend retreat in Utah last month and stumped on Romney’s behalf more recently in Normal, Ill., on July 13.
“What I see in Mitt Romney are the kinds of skills, tools, character attributes that you need in a leader. He makes decisions. He doesn’t pander,” Ryan said at the Reagan Library in May.
Ryan is a popular pick inside the Republican Party, where he’s often praised as an ideas man after drafting the GOP’s budget known as the Path to Prosperity, which overhauls entitlements and cuts spending in an effort to reduce the deficit.
But across the aisle, Democrats have been sizing up Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, as an easy target for his controversial ideas to address the deficit. Still, Ryan has not shied away from his budget blueprint. He recently told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the election will turn on the economy and health care.
“This election is a choice of two futures: Do you want a government-centered society and a government-driven economy and government-rationed health care? Or do you want the American opportunity society with a safety net, a free economy, economic freedom, personal liberty?” Ryan said on This Week July 1. “That’s what we want. That’s the American idea. We have one more chance as a people to get that back, and that chance is going to come on November the 6th.”
Ryan and his wife Janna have three children, Elizabeth, Charles and Samuel. He earned a degree in economics and political science from Miami University in Ohio. Before running for Congress, he was an aide to Republican senators Robert Kasten Jr. and Sam Brownback, as well as to former U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp, and was also a speechwriter for education secretary William Bennett.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN