Paul Ryan, the newly minted Republican vice presidential candidate, is relatively unknown to most Americans, polls show. So we thought it'd be a good time to get you caught up on where the Wisconsin congressman stands on the top issues.
Entitlement programs and the economy
Perhaps the largest controversy that surrounds Ryan is a budget plan he authored which would end Medicare as we know it, and transform Medicaid and Social Security. While the plan passed in the GOP-controlled House, it failed to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate. In other words, it was dead on arrival.
As soon as it was official that he'd join the Romney ticket, opponents seized on his plan to transform Medicare -- an extremely popular social program in the country that has widespread support. While his plan would only affect those currently under 55, the mere mention of changing Medicare sent a shockwave to older voters -- the most reliable voters. His plan would have also raised the eligibility age from 65 (as it is now) to 67. As for Medicaid, states -- not the federal government -- would be in charge.
Ryan has said poorer seniors should receive "more targeted assistance than those who have had ample opportunity to save for retirement" as part of the solution to the program's long-term insolvency. He's spoken favorably of proposals to grow benefits for wealthier retirees more slowly than for others. Ryan has also backed the idea, popular with Republican lawmakers, to let future retirees invest a portion of their Social Security contributions privately.
His budget would also drastically cut domestic education programs such as federal student aid and Head Start. And he would cut taxes for millionaires -- something polls show is not popular at all.
Like all Republicans, he's been an opponent of President Barack Obama's policies to jumpstart the economy. He supports policies that cut taxes, including the Bush tax cuts. Throughout his time as a congressman, Ryan voted "no" on the following: Overriding presidential veto of the farm bill (2008), restricting employer interference in union organizing (2007), increasing the minimum wage to $7.25 (2007). Of note: He voted yes in 2008 to extending unemployment benefits from 39 weeks to 59.
Ryan voted "no" on Obama's sweeping health care law. His approach to health care is based on privatization and a less-government-in-your-lives position.
"He argues the 2010 law that passed with zero Republican support removes free-market principles from the health care industry," CNN political writer Tom Cohen wrote in a CNN.com article. "He also opposes how the Obama administration requires religious-affiliated hospitals and schools to provide health insurance plans that cover abortion and female contraceptives, arguing that forces Catholics and others to act against their churches' teachings."
His history is mixed, you could say. He voted "yes" on supporting a 2006 constitutional amendment that would make marriage between one man and one woman.
Ryan also voted "no" on a 2010 bill to repeal "Don't ask, Don't tell" -- the military's ban on allowing openly gay service members in the forces. He also opposes allowing gay couples to adopt. Romney, by the way, supports gay couples' right to adopt.
He did, however, buck his party by voting for the Sexual Orientation Employment Nondiscrimination Act -- a bill that would end hiring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender.
Ryan is an avid hunter. His game? Deer. And there are quite a lot of deer in the Badger State. He has earned an "A" grade from the National Rifle Association for his legislative history on gun rights. He's supported a measure that would protect gun manufacturers and salesman from lawsuits, and a bill that would shorten the gun sale-waiting period from 72 hours to 24 hours.
Ryan is, perhaps, one of the most anti-abortion politicians in Congress today. He was a co-sponsor on the controversial bill that would say life begins at conception. The bill failed. The Catholic congressman also voted to bar federal money going for abortions with the exception of rape, incest or a medical emergency. He has also backed a bill that would ban partial-birth abortion with the exception of a medical emergency. And because of his strong stance on the issue, the National Right to Life Committee gave him a 100% rating.
While his policy beliefs have made him a conservative star, his positions may hurt the Romney-Ryan ticket with women voters.
Ryan is an ardent opponent of the DREAM Act, which would help children of illegal immigrations gain citizenship. He's said previously that the act would be a temporary solution.
"We must first secure the border and stem the flow of illegal immigration, and then work to increase legal immigration through an enforceable guest worker program and by developing a more secure employee verification system," Ryan's website says. "I believe it would be a serious mistake to pursue piecemeal reforms like the DREAM Act without first putting in place these fundamental components of immigration reform.
In short, he lacks a significant foreign policy. And it's interesting to note that both Ryan and Romney have never served in the military. The Wisconsin congressman voted for the war in Iraq, has called for more money to go to the defense budget, supports Israel and gave his seal of approval to the war in Afghanistan.
"Ryan will have to be tutored in this subject prior to his debate with Biden,” political expert Larry Sabato said in an interview with Reuters. “Biden will be loaded for bear in his own area.”