RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
For more on this big weekend in politics, we turn to Cokie Roberts for some analysis. Good morning.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.
MONTAGNE: So we just heard in Ari's piece the excitement Paul Ryan is generating among the Republican faithful. Is that partly why Mitt Romney chose him as his running mate, to generate some of the kind of enthusiasm that has been missing from his own campaign?
ROBERTS: Well, that's certainly got to be part of the reason. Look, mainly what he was doing wasn't working - what Romney was doing. He was falling behind in the polls. The president's attack machine was working very well. Romney's unfavorables were way, way up. And I think it was clear this campaign just figured they couldn't do something safe, that they had to shake up this race. And they certainly did do that with the pick of Paul Ryan.
The word that you heard all weekend was bold, and that's not a word you usually hear associated with Mitt Romney.
MONTAGNE: Well, we've also been hearing that bold can work both ways, and we've just - the mention of Sarah Palin just now suggests a bold choice that didn't work out so well. Paul Ryan, though, is clearly a stronger candidate, but what do you think, bold, is that a wise move by Romney?
ROBERTS: Well, obviously we're going to have to see. But look, Ryan does have a lot going for him. He's a serious person. He's believable as vice presidential material in a way that Palin in the end turned out not to be. He's also liked and respected in Washington by his colleagues and the press in a way that Dan Quayle wasn't. I remember when he was picked, a colleague of his in the Senate saying to me, you know, he arrives at the Capitol, puts on his sneakers and goes to the gym.
Nobody says that about Paul Ryan. He's also a happy warrior in the tradition of Reagan and Kemp, smiles when he delivers bad news. He talks about the debt in a way that a lot of people care about. But look, Renee, being a member of Congress is always a problem for a candidate because you've voted. You've taken a stand. You have a record, and Paul Ryan has more than a record. He has a very specific plan, a budget that the Catholic bishops, who have been somewhat Republican in recent years, they said his plan, quote, "fails to meet the moral criteria of protecting the poor," and it's something the Democrats can shoot at, and they were out in force yesterday doing just that, calling him a radical right-wing extremist. The president said he was the ideological leader of the Republicans in Congress, with the hope that people hear the words Republican and Congress and react negatively.
MONTAGNE: But the Democrats were already going after the Ryan budget proposals. How much difference does it make that he's on the ticket?
ROBERTS: Well, it makes him and his proposals the centerpiece of the campaign. And the fact that the Democrats are so happy about this pick might give the Republicans some pause. The Democrats think they won a couple of special Congressional elections mainly by going after Ryan's proposals. They had one ad that showed a woman in a wheelchair being pushed over a cliff, not exactly subtle. And they're hoping that the elderly - that was the one age group that did not go for Obama four years ago, and that went overwhelmingly for Republicans in 2010 - the Democrats are now hoping those elderly voters in swing states like Florida and New Hampshire might have second thoughts and go for Obama. Ryan and Romney went out of their way to assure those votes that they're not touching Medicare for them when the candidates appeared on "60 Minutes" last night, but the Democrats will keep repeating that the Ryan plan ends Medicare as we know it, and they'll be busy in the next several days before the Republican convention, trying to define Ryan before the Republicans have a chance really introduce him.
Because, of course, even though those of us who are here in Washington know who he is, the great majority of voters don't know, and so the rush now will be to fill in that empty slate.
MONTAGNE: And then, Cokie, one would imagine that Mitt Romney wants to be talking right now not about Medicare, another entitlement, but about jobs and the president's record on the economy.
ROBERTS: Well, sure. But you know, he kept trying to do that, and the Democrats were successful in turning the conversation to his record at Bain Capital and his failure to release his tax returns. And so at least now he's talking about something other than that, and he's trying to characterize it, Romney is, as a big conversation about big issues like the role of government. We'll see how that turns out.
MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. Good to talk to you, as always. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.