LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. The Romney campaign is calling it America's Comeback Team. Congressman Paul Ryan is officially Mitt Romney's choice for vice president. After a flashy rollout in Norfolk, Virginia, the two men campaigned together across the state. Today, they're holding rallies in North Carolina and Wisconsin. NPR's Ari Shapiro has the story of Ryan's first day on the ticket.
ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: There's a certain music the Romney campaign saves to roll out only on very big days. It's from the movie "Air Force One." This was definitely an occasion for the very big day music.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SHAPIRO: As people in the crowd waved American flags, Romney walks down a gangway from the USS Wisconsin to introduce his running mate, a congressman from Wisconsin. Romney started with Paul Ryan's biography and then talked about his career; seven terms in Congress, now chairman of the House Budget Committee.
MITT ROMNEY: There's a lot of people in the other party who might disagree with Paul Ryan. I don't know of anyone who doesn't respect his character and judgment.
SHAPIRO: Finally, the big introduction. After Ryan descended the gangway to more very big day music, Romney's new running mate delivered a 17-minute speech, showing that he can play both cheerleader and attack dog.
PAUL RYAN: The commitment Mitt Romney and I make to you is this. We won't duck the tough issues, we will lead.
SHAPIRO: Ryan did not talk much about budget-cutting proposals he's famous for. They have electrified conservatives and mobilized liberals. Instead, Ryan described his and Romney's shared vision for American in broad terms.
RYAN: What kind of people do we want to be?
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD RESPONSE)
RYAN: We can turn this thing around.
SHAPIRO: Through all three rallies that Romney and Ryan held across Virginia yesterday, there was a passion in the crowd that is sometimes missing from Romney events. People sounded like they weren't just rooting against Barack Obama, they were cheering for Paul Ryan. Derwood Warrenburg is a retiree from Portsmouth, Virginia.
DERWOOD WARRENBURG: I think it's fantastic. We've got somebody finally that's got some fire in his belly. His convictions, he has no quibbles about holding back.
SHAPIRO: Now, when you say we finally got somebody with fire in the belly, are you concerned that Mitt Romney doesn't have as much fire?
WARRENBURG: I've been very concerned. I like him an awful lot, but I think he should be more angry.
SHAPIRO: At an event in Ashland, people pounded their feet on the wooden school gym bleachers to express their roaring enthusiasm. Ryan told them he had good news and bad news.
RYAN: Why don't we get rid of the bad news first, OK? President Obama is the president of the United States and the good news is, on November the 6th, he won't be any longer.
SHAPIRO: Of course, if they win, no matter their enthusiasm, they'll still have to wait until January to take office. Romney and Ryan had an obvious rapport from the time they started campaigning together during the Wisconsin primaries. People called it a bromance or buddy movie, even though the 42-year-old Ryan is the age of Romney's oldest son. The bromance vibe was back as the duo stopped by a pie shop in Ashland.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)
SHAPIRO: This event marks a major shift for the famously cautious Romney campaign. Paul Ryan is a polarizing figure with controversial ideas that may now become the center of this race. According to Beth Myers who ran the vice presidential search, Romney decided to tap Ryan on August 1st. That was his first day back from overseas. The two men then met in person on August 5th. One week later, they were standing on stage together starting a new chapter in this presidential race.
Ari Shapiro, NPR News, travelling with the Romney campaign. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.