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TAMPA -- Republican vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan introduced himself to American voters Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention with an acceptance speech that strongly attacked the Obama Administration as "central planners" and promised a vigorous campaign with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
"Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation's economic problems," Mr. Ryan told a wildly cheering sea of delegates in the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "And I'm going to level with you: We don't have that much time. But if we are serious and smart, and we lead, we can do this."
The seven-term congressman from Janesville, Wis., who received his college degree from Miami University of Ohio, accepted the offer to run with GOP nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Romney against the incumbent Democrats, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Mr. Ryan, 42, said his goal is to put Medicare on a sound footing for generations and to reform the tax code -- actions Democrats say will force the middle class to shoulder more of the cost and will lessen the burden on the wealthy.
He advocated support for Mr. Romney, set to give his own acceptance speech tonight.
"After four years of getting the run-around, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Gov. Mitt Romney," Mr. Ryan said.
"I'm the newcomer to the campaign, so let me share a first impression. I have never seen opponents so silent about their record and so desperate to keep their power. They've run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they've got left."
He criticized the federal stimulus program as "the first troubling sign" of the Obama presidency, and blasted $500 million in loans to alternative energy firm Solyndra. He called Obamacare -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- the biggest threat to Medicare. "An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for," he said. "Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my Mom's generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours."
Mr. Ryan introduced his family -- wife Janna, mother Betty, and children Liza, Charlie, and Sam.
"My Dad used to say to me: 'Son. You have a choice: You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution.' The present administration has made its choices. And Mitt Romney and I have made ours. Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation's economic problems."
The speech was briefly interrupted by a heckler holding a sign and yelling, "My body, my choice," and "Health care, not warfare."
Mr. Romney's pick alarmed some observers -- House Speaker John Boehner (R., West Chester, Ohio) called it risky -- because of Mr. Ryan's identification as the author of a budget-cutting plan to end Medicare as a generation of Americans has come to know it.
Democrats pilloried his plan with a television commercial showing a man, presumed to be Mr. Ryan, pushing a senior citizen in a wheelchair off a cliff.
The plan would allow future Medicare recipients to choose a "defined contribution plan" that works as a supplement to private health-care insurance, rather than the "defined benefit plan" of Medicare currently.
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Delegates hope Mr. Ryan's trajectory is higher and longer than that of Sarah Palin, whose high point as the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee may have been when she wowed the nominating convention with a joke about the difference between a hockey mom and a ''pit bull'' (lipstick).
Her candidacy came under fire for her lack of knowledge of national and foreign affairs and ended up a drag on the 2008 ticket.
Mr. Ryan cast the Romney-Ryan platform as the honest, hard truth.
"We will not duck the tough issues, we will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others; we will take responsibility. We will not try to replace our founding principles; we will reapply our founding principles. The work ahead will be hard. These times demand the best of us -- all of us, but we can do this."
He portrayed the Obama presidency as "adrift, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday's wind."
"After four years of government trying to divide up the wealth, we will get America creating wealth again. With tax fairness and regulatory reform, we'll put government back on the side of the men and women who create jobs, and the men and women who need jobs."
Mr. Ryan was selected as Mr. Romney's running mate two weeks ago, bypassing Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio for the No. 2 job, as Mr. Portman alluded in his own speech earlier in the evening.
"They say I was on Govenor Romney's short list of vice presidential candidates. Apparently it wasn't short enough," Mr. Portman said.
In his prime-time speech, Mr. Portman attacked the Obama term as an economic failure.
"We can't afford four more years. How about no more years?" he said.
"President Obama says he deserves re-election because his economic policies have worked. Not in this universe they haven't. In fact, the experts tell us that if we don't change our policies, we are going back into recession next year. Tens of millions of Americans are not out of the last recession," Mr. Portman said.
He lauded Mr. Ryan as a terrific choice for vice president, and said Mr. Romney would forge international trade agreements.
"Paul Ryan is not asking America to continue to hang in there. He is proposing new policies that will give poor and middle-class families opportunities and hope for the future," Mr. Portman said.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern issued a statement saying Mr. Portman "glaringly overlooked his own central role in the disastrous policies that helped cause the Great Recession," referring to Mr. Portman's assignments as trade and budget director for former President George W. Bush.
"Few people have had as great of a harmful economic impact on our country as Senator Portman, and like Mitt Romney, he also failed to support the auto rescue that helped protect nearly 850,000 Ohio jobs, spread out in 80 out of 88 counties, tied to the auto industry," Mr. Redfern said.
The convention also heard from former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another vice presidential possibility. Mr. Pawlenty called the event "Barack Obama's retirement party."
Other speakers included Steve Cohen, president of Screen Machine Industries, a family-owned manufacturer of construction and mining equipment in Etna, Ohio, who listed problems he said can be helped or hurt by government, such as patent theft, tariffs, and unfair trade practices, regulations, and taxes.
"In addition, our international competitors do not have to face the upcoming costs associated with funding a multibillion-dollar health-care plan, overreaching emission standards, and the unnecessary war on coal. These factors create a tremendous disadvantage in the global market place, he said.
"And yes, we did build this company," Mr. Cohen said, using the line used by almost every speaker at the podium in the convention.
Contact Tom Troy at: email@example.com or 419-724-6058.