U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan — the leading GOP voice on the nation’s budget, and a top candidate to become Mitt Romney’s running mate — is campaigning in Utah for congressional hopeful Mia Love this weekend, and also meeting with Romney and national party leaders meeting here.
"I am excited to come to Salt Lake to campaign for Mia Love. She is an exciting leader. We need people like Mia in Congress to solve problems," he told the The Salt Lake Tribune — but declined comment on the Romney retreat this weekend in Park City that includes some other potential vice presidential running mates.
Donors to Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, were paying $2,500 each to attend a VIP reception Friday evening with Ryan at the Glenwild Clubhouse in Park City, or $1,000 each for a general reception with him. Love decided not to attend the event herself, however, as she was busy with a wildfire that threatened homes in her city.
Ryan said he does not travel much for candidates, but, "Mia is one of the top few races in the country. It’s a seat that we really think we can pick up because we have such a stellar candidate like Mia Love."
She is running in the new 4th Congressional District against Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, who switched to the district after he charged that Utah Republicans gerrymandered his home 2nd Congressional District.
Ryan said he likes Matheson — but not his politics.
"I’ve known him a long time. We get along fine personally. I just think he’s wrong on the issues, and I think Mia will be a better replacement."
Ryan added, "We need people who are sincere reformers who will do what it takes to get the country back on track. I see that kind of person in Mia — a real leader with natural leadership skills, who’s not afraid to make tough calls and do what needs to be done to save the country from a debt crisis."
Ryan’s trip led Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dukakis to call a news conference to denounce Ryan’s budget proposals, and Love for buying into them.
"She’s made a deal with the devil," Dabakis said. "They bought her.... The Paul Ryan budget has serious consequences for Medicare, Social Security, student loans, eliminating Pell grants and for hurting the neediest people in society while not touching the millionaires and billionaires. It is an insult to the hard-working people of Utah."
Ryan shrugged off the criticism.
"What we find from the other side is they are not offering solutions, only attacks," he said. "We’re trying to prevent a debt crisis.... We’ve passed reforms that do that, that grow the economy, that preserve programs like Medicare, that get the debt under control and paid off. Unfortunately, the president has offered no solutions to do that, and the Senate has chosen not to pass a budget for three years, which accelerates our path toward a debt crisis."
Ryan is also in Utah to participate in a retreat for Romney’s most important financial backers at the Deer Valley Resort — which includes a Who’s Who of top Republicans from former GOP presidential nominee John McCain to strategist Karl Rove and former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker III.
Two other top potential vice presidential running mates will be there besides Ryan: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. Ryan declined comment about the retreat, and about Romney’s work on choosing a running mate.
"I want to be respectful of the process that he has. So I just don’t want to comment on it," he said.
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