WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney has picked Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, the Romney campaign confirmed on Saturday.
“Mitt’s choice for VP is Paul Ryan. Spread the word about America’s comeback team,” a Romney campaign app said, confirming widespread reports he had selected the 42-year-old Wisconsin lawmaker who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee.
Romney was expected to introduce Ryan at the retired battleship USS Wisconsin – coincidentally named for Ryan’s home state – in Norfolk, Virginia, at about 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) Saturday, a Republican official who asked not to be identified said late Friday.
The announcement will mark the end a months-long search by Romney for a running mate to join him in facing Democratic President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the November 6 election.
Romney starts a bus tour on Saturday through four politically divided states that he needs to win in November: Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.
The choice of Ryan will bring the debate over how to reduce government spending and debt to the forefront of the race for the White House.
Conservative leaders, increasingly anxious over the state of Romney’s campaign, had urged him to pass over reliable – but not particularly inspiring – figures such as Ohio Senator Rob Portman and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, and instead go for Ryan.
The Wisconsin congressman is a favorite of the conservative Tea Party, an anti-tax, limited-government movement that helped Republicans take over the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010.
But Ryan’s selection immediately draws attention to a budget plan he proposed as House budget chairman that would include controversial cuts in government health programs for the elderly and poor.
Democrats are eager to pounce on that issue – particularly in Florida, where many seniors live and which could be a crucial state in the November election. Ryan’s selection makes the Florida leg of Romney’s bus tour an instant test for the new ticket.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Vicki Allen)