Mitt Romney argued Saturday that he and Paul Ryan would "offer solutions that are bold, specific and achievable" and welcomed the Wisconsin lawmaker to his ticket in a speech in front of the decommissioned USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said he and the House Budget Committee chairman together would confront the difficult financial challenges facing the United States, saying they had the combined experience inside and out of Washington necessary to tackle major obstacles.
"We will preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security and keep them there for future generations," Romney said, "unlike the current president, who's cut Medicare funding by $700 billion."
"He's never been content to curse the darkness," Romney said. "He'd rather light candles."
The Wisconsin lawmaker echoed those sentiments in his remarks, arguing that he and Romney will "take responsibility" for the challenges facing the nation.
In a nod to what is considered his biggest weakness — his budget proposals that include dramatic spending cuts and the restructuring of popular entitlement programs — Ryan pledged that he and Romney "won't duck the tough issues."
"We can turn this thing around. Real solutions can be delivered. But it will take leadership and the courage to tell you the truth," Ryan said.
The seven-term Wisconsin congressman also quickly adopted the traditional attack-dog role of vice presidential nominees, slamming the Obama administration as presiding over the "worst economic recovery in 70 years."
"Whatever the explanations, whatever the excuses, this is a record of failure," Ryan said.
His address stressed that his Washington experience works well with Romney's private sector experience, and that together they can push forward a new economic vision.
"I believe my record of getting things done in Congress will be a very helpful complement to Gov. Romney’s executive and private sector success outside Washington," Ryan added. "I have worked closely with Republicans as well as Democrats to advance an agenda of economic growth, fiscal discipline and job creation."
And Ryan asserted the Republican ticket offers an alternative to the "diminished dreams, lowered expectations, uncertain futures" he sees in America.
"I hear some people say that this is just 'the new normal,'" said Ryan. "High unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is not a new normal. It's the result of misguided policies. And next January, our economy will begin a comeback with the Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class that will lead to more jobs and more take home pay for working Americans."
The combined effect served to highlight the intention of the Ryan pick: framing the GOP as the responsible, capable ticket with the experience to bring America back from the economic brink.
Republicans hope that Ryan's economic credentials and Midwestern roots can appeal to swing voters in the heartland. A recent poll from CBS and The New York Times showed Romney trailing Obama by 6 percentage points in Wisconsin, and an Epic-MRA poll earlier this month showed the president with an identical margin in Michigan. And in polls from Reuters and Fox News released Friday, Romney's advantage on the economy — once his strength — had evaporated.
If Ryan can significantly erode those advantages and force Obama to play defense in the upper Midwest, that could divert resources from other crucial swing states. And if Romney is able to capture Ryan's home state of Wisconsin — and its 10 electoral votes — he could potentially afford losses in Ohio and Virginia.
Ryan concluded his remarks by arguing that he and Romney will "take responsibility" and saying they can unite the country behind their campaign.
"I'm excited for what lies ahead and I'm thrilled to be a part of America's Comeback Team," Ryan said. "And together, we will unite America and get this done."
There were some growing pains with the new ticket, however. Romney mistakenly introduced Ryan as "the next president of the United States" — forgetting to add the "vice."
The slip elicited laughter from the crowd, and Romney jogged back to the podium with a smile to correct himself.
"Every now and then I'm known to make a mistake," Romney quipped. "I didn't make a mistake with this guy!"
— Posted at 9:15 a.m. and has been updated.