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Wisconsin's Sen. Johnson On Rep. Ryan


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. We are following the big political story this hour. Mitt Romney has announced the other half of his ticket, congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. He's been a champion of conservative fiscal principles as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Let's listen to Paul Ryan from an interview with NPR in May of 2012, shortly after he released his first budget.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: You have to understand, one of our primary aspirations is to grow the economy, is to create jobs. And we have a different opinion from the president on how to do that. We don't think borrowing and spending money does that. We're not demand-side Keynesians. So we don't subscribe to that economic doctrine. And we think if you keep raising tax rates on producers on businesses, small and large, you're going to lose economic growth and job creation. And so, you have to remember, this is not theology, it's economic pragmatism.

WERTHEIMER: Today, after the vice presidential announcement, Ryan hammered again on the job creation issue.

RYAN: I'm proud to stand with a man who understands what it takes to foster job creation in our economy; someone who knows from experience that if you have a small business, you did build that.


WERTHEIMER: He is, of course, playing on comments by President Obama about small businesses that Republicans have seized upon. For more on Mr. Ryan, we've got Ron Johnson on the line. He is the junior senator from Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, and he joins us by telephone. Senator, thank you very much for talking to us today.

SENATOR RON JOHNSON: Good morning, Linda. Happy to be on.

WERTHEIMER: So, how do you think - how is Paul Ryan viewed locally? Could you characterize him as a Wisconsin man?

JOHNSON: Oh, you know, through and through. I mean, he was born in Janesville, Wisconsin and he's never left it. He certainly served his country in Washington, understanding policy. He's a man of integrity. He's a man of intelligence. I don't know anybody in Washington that knows the budget better - understands the fiscal situation this country's in, and I think he will perfectly compliment a President Romney as his vice president, in terms of, you know, helping craft policy, helping to get that legislation passed through hopefully a House controlled by Republicans and hopefully a Senate also with a majority of Republicans.

WERTHEIMER: Now, you had Tea Party backing in the last election. Do you think that this decision to put Mr. Ryan on the ticket will reassure Tea Party supporters, would re-energize Tea Party support for Mr. Romney? Or did he need that kind of help?

JOHNSON: Listen, I, again, I think Paul's just a really good compliment to Governor Romney's experience in the private sector. You know, Paul brings that, you know, the policy experience to the table, as well as an ability to help pass legislation. So, no, it's just a solid pick, and I'm sure that, you know, base Tea Party folks, the entire Republican Party is going to be highly energized by this pick because it's a serious pick. It shows that this is a election about real big things, about the choice that Americans need to make about what path we take this country on - whether we continue down this path of European-style Socialism, you know, growing government, growing our debt - or do we turn to really the vision of our founding fathers about limited government, about reliance on individuals and aspirational opportunity society.

And that's certainly, you know, I think this needs to be a choice election, a mandated election. That's what Paul's been talking about, that's what Governor Romney's been talking about.

WERTHEIMER: I agree with you, that this likely to be a pretty clear-choice election. I wonder if the choices that Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney are offering, if they might help to swing the state of Wisconsin in a Republican direction. What do you think?

JOHNSON: Well, I've always thought that Governor Romney had a great chance here in Wisconsin. I mean, we turned the state red in 2010. Governor Walker survived the recall election, running away with it. And what has changed? You know, I think Wisconsin's a very fiscally conservative state. You know, people here actually government should live within its means. And the only change that's happened since 2010 is the debt has grown higher, the economic condition is worse. I mean, this is the weakest recovery, really, since the Great Depression. We've grown 6.7 percent in the last 12 quarters, versus Ronald Reagan's first 12 quarters. We grew 17.7 percent. And we've got 23 million Americans under or unemployed.

So, no, I think this is a - I think Wisconsin is definitely in play.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Senator.

JOHNSON: OK, have a good day.

WERTHEIMER: That's Ron Johnson. He is the junior from Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.