In first joint interview, Romney defends Ryan’s Medicare plan, slams Obama

Dylan Stableford
The Ticket

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan sat down with "Face the Nation" anchor Bob Schieffer in High Point, N.C., on Sunday—their first joint interview since Romney announced Ryan as his running mate.

In the interview, which aired Sunday on "60 Minutes," Romney addressed a Miami Herald headline that suggested Ryan's budget proposal—which would transform Medicare into a voucher system—"could hurt Romney in Florida" and, in turn, the GOP's chances in November.

"There's only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare," Romney said. "Seven-hundred-sixteen billion dollars to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare."

[Related: After Sunday, Romney and Ryan won't appear together until the convention]

"What Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it's there for current seniors," Romney said. "No changes, by the way, for current seniors, or those nearing retirement. But looking for young people down the road and saying, 'We're going to give you a bigger choice.' In America, the nature of this country has been giving people more freedom, more choices. That's how we make Medicare work down the road."

"My mom is a Medicare senior in Florida," Ryan, seated to Romney's right, added. "Our point is we need to preserve their benefits, because the 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. And we think these reforms are good reforms that have bipartisan origins. They started from the Clinton commission in the late '90s."

The former Massachusetts governor said he vetted a shortlist of possible vice presidential candidates, but made his final decision on the Wisconsin representative on Aug. 1.

[Related: How Romney picked Ryan for his VP and kept it a secret]

"I kept my mind open, but I was intrigued by Paul," Romney said. "We spent some time on the campaign trail. I got to meet his wife and three children and was very impressed."

"Paul could become—if it were necessary—could become president," Romney continued. "He has the experience and judgment, capacity and character to become president. And that was the first and most important criteria."

Ryan was asked what Romney told him when he asked him to be his running mate.

"He essentially said that we share the same values and that I have the kinds of experiences that complement his skills, that complement his experience to help him govern, to execute a vision to get this country back on the right track," Ryan said. "You know, to create jobs. To help people get back on the path in life. ... I said, 'Yes.'"

[Also read: One sign of Ryan's impact on Romney campaign: Big crowds]

Schieffer also asked Ryan, who is running for congressional re-election in Wisconsin while campaigning to be vice president, if he is hedging his bets by doing so.

"I already filed," Ryan said. "Our filing deadline was in June. I'm already on the ballot, so it has nothing to do with that."

Later in the interview, Ryan slammed what he called President Barack Obama's lack of leadership.

"President Obama is picking winners and losers based on connections, based on fads like Solyndra and basically giving handouts to businesses, giving preference to tax code," Ryan said. "We want to get Washington out of the business of picking winners and losers. We want entrepreneurs to have the barriers removed from in front of them, so that people can work hard and succeed."