Paul Ryan, the running mate of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, on Wednesday said they would lead an economic turnaround fueled by tough choices that will generate jobs and strengthen the middle class.
Ryan accepted his assignment as Romney's pick for vice president at the Republican convention with the biggest speech of his political career - one that introduced the little-known Wisconsin congressman to voters in a White House race he said would offer "the clearest possible choice" on economic remedies.
"Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation's economic problems," Ryan said in his speech Wednesday night.
"We will not duck the tough issues - we will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others - we will take responsibility," he said.
Romney's selection of Ryan, chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, has energized conservatives and put his proposed changes in Medicare, the popular health program for seniors, at the center of the campaign debate.
Ryan's budget plan would rein in government spending and shift portions of Medicare to a voucher system, a proposal that has sparked Democratic charges that Ryan will put future benefits for seniors at risk.
Republicans hope to strike a balance during the convention between sharp indictments of Obama's leadership and a broader introduction of Romney's plans for the economy and the softer side of a candidate who has had trouble connecting with voters.
The convention seems to be giving Romney a boost as the run-up to the Nov. 6 election against President Barack Obama begins.
A Reuters/Ipsos online survey on Wednesday showed Romney deadlocked with Obama among likely voters at 43 percent each - an improvement for Romney from Obama's two-point lead on Tuesday and four-point lead on Monday.
With the convention shifting into high gear, delegates kept a wary eye on Hurricane Isaac as it pounded the Louisiana coast. There was concern that televised images of political revelry in Tampa could provide a jarring contrast to the storm's onslaught, although by Wednesday afternoon Isaac had been downgraded to a tropical storm.
DEMOCRATS HIT BACK
Hoping to undercut Ryan on his big night, the Obama campaign released an online video accusing him of harboring "out-of-step views from a bygone era" that would hurt the middle class, threaten Medicare and curtail women's abortion rights.
They want to highlight the Ryan plan in states like Florida, which has a large senior population, and Virginia, where thousands of government employees populate the suburbs outside the nation's capital.
Republican delegate Ronda Vuillemont-Smith of Oklahoma said the selection of Ryan would help focus the ticket on spending cuts and reducing the size of government.
"I honestly feel that Ryan brought backbone to the ticket," she said.
Rob Portman, an Ohio senator who was on Romney's short list of possible vice presidential candidates, said re-electing Obama would lead the country back into recession.
"Tens of millions of Americans are not out of the last recession," he said.
Keen to broaden the campaign rhetoric beyond economic issues, Republicans launched sharp attacks on Obama's foreign policy.
"For four years, we have drifted away from our proudest traditions of global leadership," Arizona Senator John McCain said.
Romney also waded into foreign policy on Wednesday at an American Legion gathering in Indianapolis, trying to counter Democratic criticism of his inexperience abroad and accusing Obama of weakening America's place in the world.
"For the past four years President Obama has allowed our leadership to diminish," Romney said. "In dealings with other nations, he has given trust where it's not earned, insult where it's not deserved and apology where it's not due."
Romney denounced Obama's handling of both friends and foes of America.
"We used to nurture our alliances and stand up for our common values," he said. "But when it comes to friends and allies like Poland, the Czech Republic and Israel - and with nations that oppose us like Iran and Cuba - President Obama has moved in the opposite direction."
Foreign policy and military matters are points of vulnerability for Romney. A trip abroad last month aimed at burnishing his credentials was plagued by gaffes and stumbles.
Obama, whose own foreign policy inexperience was widely viewed as a weakness four years ago, now generally gets high marks in polls on the topic - particularly since the killing of Osama bin Laden last year.
Condoleezza Rice, who served as secretary of state under former Republican President George W. Bush, also was due to speak on Wednesday.
The convention paid tribute by video to Ron Paul, the libertarian Texas congressman whose disgruntled supporters caused a disruption at the meeting on Tuesday in protest of new rules that could hurt similar grassroots movements.
Paul's son Rand, a Kentucky senator, told the convention that Obama's proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy were a recipe for deeper economic distress.
"Mr. President, you say the rich must pay their fair share. When you seek to punish the rich, the jobs that are lost are those of the poor and middle class," Paul said. "When you seek to punish Mr. Exxon Mobil, you punish the secretary who owns Exxon Mobil stock."
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