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Romney’s choice of Ryan praised–and panned


AP Photo

VIDEO: View video from the Norfolk event. (ABC News)

Eric Hess had one word for Mitt Romney’s appearance with newly picked running mate Paul Ryan in historic Old Town Manassas Saturday. “Electric,” said Hess, who is the Stafford County chairman of the Virginia First District Republican Committee.

“I think it’s a fantastic choice,” he said. “I think [Ryan] will help focus the nation’s energy on solving the problems that we have. He’s an energetic, intellectual problem-solver. Everyone I ran into today is excited and behind the team.”

The streets around the Loy E. Harris Pavilion, where the rally was held, were packed, he said, and Romney and Ryan shook hands and signed autographs. The choice of Ryan, the GOP’s budget guru, as the vice-presidential running mate drew sharp, swift response locally and nationally, reflecting the polarized political landscape.

Harold Bannister, vice president of the Fredericksburg Democratic Committee, for example, said that he thinks the choice of Ryan sends the wrong signal to the country.

“We all need to pull together,” Bannister said. “Unfortunately, he has shown he is not interested in putting the country first. He once again wants to give tax cuts to those who don’t need it.”

Steven Thomas, the Spotsylvania County chair of the Republican Committee, and B.J. Huff, the Stafford County chair, praised the Wisconsin congressman’s knowledge of the federal budget and willingness to cut federal spending. Ryan is the architect of a spending plan that would overhaul entitlement programs.

“Romney’s selection of Rep. Ryan demonstrates his recognition that our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path and that, as president, Romney will seek out people with the vision and experience to guide our nation,” Huff said. “I’m excited to see what a Romney–Ryan administration will do, and I look forward to supporting them.”

The conservative Tea Party Express praised Romney’s decision to tap Ryan “who is so popular with tea party activists.” Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who had been a vice-presidential contender, called Ryan a “courageous reformer.” Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum said adding Ryan to the ticket reflects Romney’s commitment to restoring “fiscal sanity.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush found the choice “courageous.” The conservative Club for Growth said the pick “sends the message that Gov. Romney is interested in bold reforms.”

Democrats and their allies, though, welcomed the opportunity to bring the Ryan agenda to voters this fall, and sent out a fundraising email about Romney’s choice of “the architect of the Republican plan to kill Medicare.”

“Congressman Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are a match made in millionaires’ heaven,” said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, who directs Democratic campaign efforts in the House. “But they’ll be a nightmare for seniors who’ve earned their Medicare benefits.”

Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman who chairs the House Budget Committee, has long been a polarizing figure in national politics for his austere approach to reining in the nation’s deficits and revamping the entitlement system.

Ryan also drew sharp responses from women’s groups over his position against abortion.

The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List praised his “pristine pro-life voting record,” and his insistence there be “no ‘truce’” on the issue.