The congressman got a warm Wisconsin welcome as his proposals faced new scrutiny from Democrats.
WAUKESHA, WIS. - Brushing aside tears and responding to cheers, Rep. Paul Ryan returned to Wisconsin on Sunday for an emotional homecoming, accompanied by Mitt Romney one day after Romney named him his running mate.
"It's good to be home," Ryan said in a speech that wove personal history and national aspiration in front of thousands of people on the grounds of the Waukesha County Expo Center.
Ryan spoke of his roots as a fifth-generation Wisconsinite and his ties to Janesville, where "we live on the block I grew up on."
"My veins run with cheese, bratwurst, a little Spotted Cow, Leinie's and some Miller," he said. "I was raised on the Packers, Badgers, Bucks and Brewers.
"I like to hunt here, I like to fish here, I like to snowmobile here. I even think ice fishing is interesting. I'm a Wisconsinite through and through."
Ryan framed the fall campaign between the Republicans and President Obama as a stark choice.
"Do we want that opportunity society, a safety net, a land of upward mobility, where people can make the most of their lives, where people can get ahead?" Ryan said. "Or, do we want to go down the path of debt, doubt and despair. Do we want to copy Europe? No."
Earlier, Romney walked a careful line as he campaigned with Ryan in North Carolina.
With Ryan's introduction to a national audience defined by his plan to reshape Medicare and slash spending for nearly all government programs outside the military -- policies that Democrats have spent years attacking -- Romney was careful to note who was in the driver's seat.
"I have my budget plan," Romney said. "And that's the budget plan we're going to run on."
Romney and Ryan also sat down for a joint interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," and they tried to blunt the Democratic criticisms, particularly Ryan's proposal to transform Medicare into a voucher system.
"My mom is a Medicare senior in Florida," Ryan told CBS. "Our point is we need to preserve their benefits, because government made promises to them that they've organized their retirements around. In order to make sure we can do that, you must reform it for those of us who are younger."
Romney sought to frame Ryan's approach as an effort "to make sure we can save Medicare."
Democrats jump in
But with some conservatives watching to see if Romney sticks by the ideas that have made Ryan a hero on the right, Democrats were intent on making Romney own every element of Ryan's record. They are not limiting their attacks to fiscal matters, but also highlighting Ryan's opposition to abortion rights and federal financing of contraception, issues the White House thinks could turn more women away from the Republican ticket.
President Obama, on a fundraising trip to Chicago, welcomed Ryan to the race by describing him as the "ideological leader" of Republicans who has "a vision that I fundamentally disagree with."
Obama's advisers worked to prepare a new advertising campaign to define the agenda advocated by Romney and Ryan as a threat to women, retirees and others. At the same time, they sought to pressure Romney to embrace or distance himself from Ryan's plans.
"I assume Governor Romney embraces his thinking, since he's invested so much in talking about Ryan's role as the intellectual leader of the Republican Party," David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, said in an interview. "If he starts to distance himself from Ryan on positions that excite their base, I'm sure he'll have problems."
Just guys from Wisconsin
In his remarks in Waukesha, Ryan saluted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Sen. Ron Johnson and said, "We're just guys from 'Tosa, Kenosha, Oshkosh and Janesville."
"What we learned in this state, just a little while ago, is that we want to elect men and women who run for office and tell us who they really are, what they really believe, what they're really going to do, and when they get elected, they do that," he said. "That's what we do here in Wisconsin."
Roads around the Expo Center were jammed for miles, as thousands of people vied to get an up-close and personal view of the GOP's new national ticket.
"This pair is fantastic," said Mary Lou Kavon of Verona, Wis. She called Ryan an outstanding pick by Romney and predicted an energized Republican ticket was on its way to victory.
She said Ryan was a great choice because of his fiscal conservatism and deep knowledge of the federal budget.
Marty Pankow of Hartford was equally pumped over Romney's choice. Ryan's deficit-cutting fervor is just what the U.S. economy needs, Pankow said.
The Associated Press and New York Times contributed to this report.