Romney Suddenly Sees Ryan’s Washington Experience As An Asset

Top Romney adviser Kevin Madden defended VP pick Paul Ryan’s lack of private sector experience on the TODAY show Monday morning, arguing that Ryan’s Washington career does not conflict with Mitt Romney’s oft-repeated charge that Washington’s problems stem from “career politicians” and people who have not worked in the private sector.

TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie asked Madden to explain the contradiction between Ryan’s resume and Romney’s disparaging of public sector work experience:

GUTHRIE: The hall mark of Romney’s argument to be president is that he’s a Washington outsider who has primarily private sector expertise. In Congressman Ryan, you have somebody who’s spent his entire life in Washington and has zero private sector experience. How do you square that?

MADDEN: They have very complementary skills and very complementary resumes. Governor Romney, as you did point out, did spend a lot of time in the private sector, he knows how jobs come and go and also his experience running the Olympics and executive experience as being a governor. I think one of the things that Congressman Ryan brings to the ticket, not only does he know how Washington works, but he also knows how Washington doesn’t work…Congressman Ryan has an experience knowing what needs to be done to fix the way Washington works.


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But Madden was singing a different tune just a couple years ago, praising the Tea Party movement for “basically sending a message to Washington that they weren’t going to send the same people back to Washington, career politicians.”

Here are just a few more examples of the anti-insider messaging the Romney campaign now disavows:

  • “I have spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy,” Romney declared in a primary speech belitting former presidential candidate, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX). Romney blamed long-term elected officials for the economic crisis: “Career politicians got us into this mess, and they simply don’t know how to get us out.” [VFW Convention August 30, 2011.]
  • Newt Gingrich is “a perfect example of why we need to send to Washington someone who has not lived in Washington, but someone who has lived in the real streets of America,” Romney said in a primary debate. [CNN Debate, January 19, 2012].
  • Rick Santorum is “a limited guy, he’s been in Washington all his whole life,” Romney’s chief strategist, Stuart Stevens, scoffed after Santorum’s sweep of three primary contests. “He’s someone who’s been involved in Washington for a very long time, and that’s a completely different approach than Governor Romney.” [NYT, February 8, 2012.]
  • “I happen to believe that having been in the private sector for 25 years gives me a perspective on how jobs are created — that someone who’s never spent a day in the private sector, like President Obama, simply doesn’t understand. The president’s experience has been exclusively in politics and as a community organizer…someone who spent their career in the economy is more suited to help fix the economy than someone who spent his life in politics and as a community organizer.” [Time Magazine, May 23, 2012]

Ryan launched his government career before he even graduated college, interning in the Senate in 1991, then working for Sens. Bob Kasten (R-WI), Sam Brownback (R-KS) and vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp. During his 13-year tenure in the House of Representatives, only 2 of his bills have become law.