Mitt Romney energized local Republicans and Democrats alike on Saturday when he announced U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate in the race for the presidency, according to party leaders.
“It’s exciting news,” York County Republican Party Chairman Glenn McCall said. “I had Paul Ryan and (Sen. Marco) Rubio as my top picks.”
Ryan, 42, is “intelligent, young and conservative” and, McCall said, he will comfort conservatives to the right of Romney across the South who have reluctantly pledged to support the former Massachusetts governor mainly because he isn’t President Obama.
Democrats see Ryan, architect of a controversial long-term budget plan that would cut trillions in federal spending, as a polarizing figure whose entry into the race will stoke liberals and help clinch the election for Obama, said Patricia Calkins, Chairwoman of the York County Democratic Party.
“I’m surprised,” Calkins said. “I thought (Romney) would probably want to appeal to a broader group rather than just the base and hard core conservatives.
“Ryan’s budget would only help the haves and not the have-nots. He’s a divider.”
Republicans weren’t buying that.
Ryan is “a great pick,” said Sandy McGarry, chairwoman of the Lancaster County GOP. “He can go up against Barack Obama on his own.”
McCall said he heard from several conservative voters on Saturday who were emboldened by Romney’s choice.
Julia Sayegh of Fort Mill has been supporting Romney since the primaries. She donated $2,500 to his campaign.
She’s thrilled with Romney’s choice.
“They are good for each other,” Sayegh said. “He chose someone who reflects the right things we need and not the things we’ve had.”
Swain Sheppard, a member a member of the Rock Hill-based GPS Conservatives for Action, is a fan of Ryan.
“He’s about the only one that’s offered solutions to some of these (financial) problems the country has,” said Swain, who describes himself as a Tea Party conservative.
Still, even Ryan isn’t conservative enough for some in Sheppard’s group.
“We’ve got people who want to cut the deficit in one year,” he said.
So how much impact will Romney’s announcement have on the Nov. 6 election?
As a Catholic, McCall said, Ryan could draw evangelical Christian voters who might otherwise shy away from Romney, a Mormon.
Also, McCall said, adding Ryan to the ticket is sure to bring budget debates to the fore.
“It just heightens the discussion and brings it to the table,” he said.
McGarry admitted that vice president announcements tend to draw lots of attention and cheers, but few have swung elections. She pointed to former presidential candidate John McCain, whose choice of Sarah Palin as running mate made endless headlines even as he lost to Obama.
But “2012 is different,” McGarry said. “The VP pick is what we were really waiting to hear with Romney. This made the big difference. No more gaffes. No more ‘ha, ha, has’ on the VP picks.”
Shawn Cetrone 803-329-4072