In picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, the Romney campaign argues, Mitt Romney has shown he is serious about tackling one of the most serious problems facing America today: the deficit. After all, Ryan has built his reputation around a budget which cuts government spending by a whopping $5 trillion more than President Obama’s plan.
But the Obama campaign is already laying out their case that the Budget Committee chairman doesn’t quite have the deficit-cutting bona fides he claims.
“What Paul Ryan brings to the table is deficit-cutting credibility,” Eric Fehrnstrom, a top Romney adviser, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Choosing Ryan “indicates Mitt Romney is serious about ending the jobs crisis in this nation and also the fiscal crisis.”
But the Obama campaign isn’t ceding any ground to Ryan on the issue. As the campaign was quick to point out on Sunday, Ryan, who has served in Congress since January 1999, voted for a slew of Republican-sponsored legislation during the Bush administration that added trillions of dollars to the national debt.
“[T]his was a guy who rubber stamped every aspect of the Bush economic policy, including not paying for two wars, a Medicare prescription plan, two big tax cuts,” Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And now he wants trillions of dollars of more budget busting tax cuts skewed to the wealthy. He really isn’t in a strong position to talk about this problem.”
The Obama campaign is hoping to use Ryan’s consistent votes for Bush-era policies as part of its narrative that Republicans want to take America back to failed ideas. “We all know how well that worked out the last time we tried it,” the president — whose re-election slogan is “forward” — likes to remind voters on the campaign trail.
Ryan’s voting record during the Bush years is something he has spoken openly about. For a profile of the Congressman earlier this month, he told the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza that “as a fiscal conservative, he was ‘miserable during the last majority’ and is determined ‘to do everything I can to make sure I don’t feel that misery again.’” Lizza described Ryan as “embarrassed by the Bush years,” which goes against his image as willing to make tough choices to cut government spending.
During an appearance on “Meet the Press,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus took a stab at defending Ryan’s voting record between 2000 and 2008.
“I think that you have to judge a particular vote with the information that you have at that time,” he said, arguing for context.
But after a brief back and forth with host David Gregory, Priebus gave up defending those votes and simply praised the vice presidential candidate.
“There isn’t anyone in America that’s serious that doesn’t think that Paul Ryan is willing to take leadership positions on tough issues and present this country with a budget and with a plan to get us out of debt,” Priebus said.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.