Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced on Saturday Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is his pick for vice presidential running mate.
Romney made the announcement in Norfolk, Va., before the battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin — a ship that bears the same name as the state Ryan represents in Congress — introducing his choice by talking about Ryan losing his father at a young age.
“As he did, he internalized the virtues and hard-working ethic of the Midwest,” Romney said. “Paul Ryan works in Washington, but his beliefs remain firmly rooted in Janesville, Wis.”
Romney initially made a gaffe when he introduced Ryan by calling him the next “president” of the United States as opposed to the next “vice president” — a mistake the presidential candidate acknowledged and corrected later on.
Upon taking the stage, Ryan attacked President Obama for what he said were failed policies over the course of the past three-and-a-half years and said Romney would change the course of the country for the better.
“This is a crucial moment in the life of our nation, and it is absolutely vital that we select the right man to lead America back to prosperity and greatness,” Ryan said. “That man is sitting right next to me. His name is Mitt Romney, and he will be the next president of the United States of America.”
In terms of LGBT issues, Ryan is a notable selection among the possible choices — which were said to include U.S. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) — because Ryan voted in favor of a sexual orientation-only version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it came to the House floor in 2007.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, commended the Ryan choice because of his vote for ENDA and his willingness to engage with his organization.
“Congressman Ryan’s 2007 vote in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and his consistent willingness to engage with Log Cabin on a range of issues speaks to his record as a fair-minded policymaker,” Cooper said.
Still, Ryan joined other House Republicans in a vote on a motion to recommit on ENDA that would have shelved the bill moments before his vote in favor of the legislation.
Besides the vote in favor of a version of ENDA, Ryan’s record on LGBT issues has not been supportive. Ryan voted in the subsequent Congress against hate crimes protection legislation and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. He also expressed opposition to same-sex marriage and voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” last year, he said, ”I support the Wisconsin Amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman.”
Over the course of the 112th Congress, Ryan voted to reaffirm the Defense of Marriage Act each of the three times that House Republicans have brought measures to the floor — the Foxx amendment last year as well as the Huelskamp and King amendments this year — which demonstrated support for the anti-gay law.
Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, dismissed in June the notion that a Vice President Ryan would be a champion for LGBT equality upon taking the oath of office.
“Rep. Ryan has maintained a consistently anti-fairness voting record on issues of importance to our community, during the last five congressional sessions, including voting in 2002 against a policy that members of Congress voluntarily adopted to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in their own congressional offices,” she said.
Ryan, who’s chair of the House Budget Committee, is more well-known on Capitol Hill — and reviled by progressive groups — for taking the lead on Republican versions of annual budgets for the U.S. government that would zero out funding for Medicare in favor of a voucher system and privatize a portion of Social Security.
Jim Messina, President Obama’s campaign manager, slammed the selection of Ryan as vice presidential nominee because of the policies he proposed in his leadership role among the House Republicans.
“In naming Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy,” Messina said. “The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid. His plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors. As a member of Congress, Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy. Now the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same, catastrophic mistakes.”
But gay conservative groups praised the selection of Ryan based on his conservative policies as chair of the House Budget Committee.
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay conservative GOProud, which has endorsed Romney, commended Ryan for his conservative vision for the country.
“Paul Ryan is one of the few political leaders anywhere in the country willing to tell the American people the truth about the unprecedented budget crisis we are facing, and — more importantly — willing to put forward bold plans to put this country back on the road to fiscal solvency,” LaSalvia said.
LaSalvia continued that the conservative policies that Ryan has articulated benefit all Americans, gay and straight alike.
“Like all Americans, gays and lesbians in this country are concerned with the out-of-control spending and growing mountains of unsustainable federal debt,” LaSalvia said. “Gay Americans understand that without reforms – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will go bankrupt. The future prosperity for all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, is at stake if we do not act today.”
Log Cabin’s Cooper also had kind words about the conservative budgets that have been articulated by Ryan.
“As chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of the Republican ‘path to prosperity’ that provided the blueprint for serious spending cuts in this Congress, nobody is more qualified to articulate a conservative economic vision to restore the American economy and stimulate job creation,” Cooper said.
Many observers have speculated that the selection of Ryan, a Tea Party favorite, would bring a new energy to the Romney campaign. Most polls consistently show that Obama has a lead over the GOP contender.
But Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, said Friday night he doesn’t think the selection of Ryan will put any additional states on the table in the electoral college.
“We have Wisconsin as Leans Democratic — the least Blue category,” Sabato said. “The state is competitive already. But Ryan has never run statewide in Wisconsin. That means to me there will be far less impact than if he were a governor or a senator. Maybe it’s the late hour plus my advanced age, but I can’t think of another state that changes colors or shades.”