WASHINGTON — The lack of any big bounce in the polls from Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate is raising the stakes for Ryan at next week’s Republican National Convention.

Ryan, for 14 years a congressman from a southeastern Wisconsin congressional district, is barely known to most voters. And Democrats have tried relentlessly to introduce him as a ruthless conservative eager to slash Medicare and lower taxes for the wealthy.

Next week, Ryan will offer the public an unfiltered look, as he accepts the Republican vice presidential nomination and speaks in a prime-time slot Wednesday evening.

Such forums often give lesser-known candidates momentum, at least for a while, as a wildly enthusiastic crowd cheers them on. But Ryan faces a different kind of challenge.

Romney picked Ryan because he’s a favorite of conservatives who relish his blueprint for curbing government spending, including changes to the Medicare program for senior citizens and some people with disabilities.

“What you see in the polls now is Paul Ryan at first blush, and he’s had a controversial first few weeks,” said Jeffrey Horwitt, an analyst at Hart Research, a Democratic firm that conducts the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll with a Republican firm.

After Romney announced the Ryan pick Aug. 11, Gallup’s first poll found that the ticket had gained 1 percentage point. That’s in line with recent choices.

In 2008, Sarah Palin gave the Republicans a 2-percentage-point bounce, while Joe Biden cost the Barack Obama ticket 2 percentage points. The boost was greater for vice presidential candidates in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

 

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