How the 42-year-old Wisconsin representative (and now Mitt Romney VP pick) took a leading role in the Republican Party’s budget battle with President Obama:

Three days later, the White House started a livelier debate with Ryan. In a press briefing, Peter Orszag, the budget director at the time, dismantled Ryan’s plan, point by point. Ryan’s proposal would turn Medicare ‘into a voucher program, so that individuals are on their own in the health-care market,’ he said. Over time, the program wouldn’t keep pace with rising medical costs, so seniors would have to pay thousands of dollars more a year for health care. The Roadmap would revive Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security and ‘provide large tax benefits to upper-income households … while shifting the burden onto middle- and lower-income households. It is a dramatically different approach in which much more risk is loaded onto individuals.’ Ryan, who had always had a good relationship with Orszag, later described the briefing as the moment when ‘the budget director took that olive branch and hit me in the face with it.’

But the confrontation enhanced Ryan’s credibility among conservatives. He became the face of the opposition, someone who could attack the President’s policies with facts and figures. Indeed, at the retreat, Obama had mischaracterized Ryan’s Medicare plan, and Ryan politely corrected him. The two men sparred again the next month, at a summit at Blair House, over the President’s health-care plan. The details of Ryan’s proposals and his critiques of Obama’s mattered less than the fact that he was taking on the President.

“Fussbudget.” — Ryan Lizza, New Yorker

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