Some political scientists and prominent Maine Republicans and Democrats were quick to comment on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s pick of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice-presidential running mate.

Within hours of Romney’s announcement Saturday, statements about the selection of Ryan were flying from all sides.

Republicans tended to see the selection of Ryan, known for his conservative and controversial budget plan to remake Medicare and cut deeply into federal spending, as a sign that Romney intends to make fiscal conservatism the focus of his campaign.

Maine Democrats took a predictably dim view of Ryan’s economic ideas, while political scientists said Ryan would appeal to voters interested in reductions in the federal budget deficit, cuts to federal government spending and retaining tax cuts for the wealthy.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe said the selection indicates Romney is serious about federal deficit reduction and economic growth.

“It is vital that we have a national conversation on the necessity of getting America’s fiscal house in order given our skyrocketing and historic levels of deficits and debt — and how we achieve this goal will determine the future fiscal and economic security of our country.”

Snowe said Romney’s vice-presidential choice “underscores his commitment to policies that are critical to establishing an environment for expanding our economy and creating jobs, including overhauling our broken tax code and reforming federal regulations that are stifling America’s greatest job generators — our small businesses.”

Sen. Susan Collins said while she does not support Ryan’s budget proposals, he does have an extraordinary knowledge of the federal budget and deficit, which is important to tackling the $16 trillion debt burdening the country’s economy and taxpayers.

“I give him enormous credit for taking on this significant issue, something the president regrettably failed to do,” Collins said.

Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers, the Republican nominee for Snowe’s seat, called Romney’s choice bold.

It “shows that he is committed to getting our fiscal house in order,” Summers said.

Maine Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney of Sanford, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in the 1st District, praised Romney’s pick.

“I have said from day one that the Ryan budget is a good starting point for serious discussions on how to reduce the deficit while protecting our seniors,” he said.

Maine Senate President Kevin Raye of Perry, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Rep Mike Michaud for his 2nd District seat, said Ryan will appeal to independent voters.

“The Romney-Ryan ticket’s positive message of job growth and fiscal responsibility offers a brighter future for America and a clear choice versus the Obama-Biden record of 42 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent, skyrocketing debt and ramming through a costly, flawed and unpopular health care law,” Raye said.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said Romney’s choice shows how out of touch Romney is with working- and middle-class families.

“Romney sent a message to Americans today: If you don’t have a big bank account and millions of dollars, he doesn’t want your vote,” Grant said.

Michaud said he fundamentally disagrees with a number of Ryan’s policy ideas, including his push to change Medicare into a voucher program for Maine seniors and future retirees.

Michaud said tax cuts for the wealthy have already been tried and failed in the last decade.

“All it’s done is given us giant deficits year after year,” Michaud said.

Jim Melcher, a political scientist at the University of Maine at Farmington, said presidential candidates rarely select running mates from the U.S. House because most members are not household names. Instead, they usually choose their running mates from among the ranks of governors or U.S. senators.

Ryan is an exception, having gotten attention for his budget proposals, Melcher said.

“It suggests Romney is going to talk about budget issues. It is a pick that will shore up his credentials among fiscal conservatives,” said Melcher.

Melcher called Ryan a safe choice for Romney.

He said Ryan is not gaffe-prone like Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 election.

Melcher said some of the other potential candidates who were not white men, such as U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, had much weaker national profiles than Ryan.

Melcher, a former Wisconsinite, said Ryan fits into the state’s tradition of spawning political leaders with big ideas about how the government ought to be run.

“He is not just a pork-barrel, bring-in-the-money politician,” Melcher said.

But in the end, Melcher said, the vice-presidential pick does not have much impact on a presidential election, compared to the economy and other factors.

“The biggest thing you want to do is choose someone who won’t give you problems,” Melcher said.

Sandy Maisel, Colby College government professor, said Romney picked Ryan to change the momentum of the campaign, which has been favoring President Obama lately.

“The choice of Ryan represents Romney’s attempt to turn the election into an ideological referendum, as he was clearly losing in his effort to make it a referendum merely on President Obama,” Maisel said by email.

He said the risk for Romney is that Ryan is the architect of a budget plan that threatens Medicare and is viewed as a way to take away from the middle class and give to the rich.

“The GOP sees this strategy as a way to stimulate the economy, but it remains to be seen how everyday voters will respond,” Maisel said.

Mark Brewer, a political scientist at the University of Maine at Orono, said he expected Romney to hold out a little longer to build suspense. But since he has been slipping in the polls in some swing states, Brewer said, the timing made sense.

Brewer said Ryan’s positives include his youth and energy and reputation for being smart and informed. “Even people who think his ideas are terrible respect his acumen,” he said.

He said Ryan’s Catholic, white, working-class background can only help Romney appeal to those skeptical of Romney’s Mormon religious beliefs.

Ryan’s negatives include his inexperience in foreign policy, which compounds Romney’s own lack of foreign policy experience, Brewer said.

The other big negative, he said, is Ryan’s authorship of the House budget plan.

“The Democrats are saying, ‘Ryan wants to end Medicare as we know it.’ It is a huge problem,” Brewer said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

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