Mitt Romney announced Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate Saturday, selecting the Republican Party’s go-to man on budget issues in a decision that signals the campaign will make the nation’s spiraling debt a centerpiece of its attacks on President Obama.

Romney made the selection official during a campaign stop Saturday morning in Norfolk, Va., before launching a four-day bus tour.

The Republican presidential candidate called his new running mate a man of “steadiness” and “integrity.” Speaking Saturday morning, Romney praised Ryan as an “intellectual leader” of the party, one who understands the toll the debt is taking on the country but is optimistic about the future.

“He doesn’t demonize his opponents. He understands that honorable people can have honest differences and he appeals to the better angels of our nature,” Romney said. “He’s never been content to just curse the darkness. He’d rather light candles.”

To the backdrop of retired battleship USS Wisconsin, an energized Ryan then riled up the crowd with a feisty speech that promoted Romney as the solution to the problems under President Obama. Ryan, met with chants of “USA, USA,” gave a sweeping vision speech on free enterprise, one laced with attacks on the White House incumbent.

“No one disputes that President Obama inherited a difficult situation. And, in his first two years, with his party in complete control of Washington, he passed nearly every item on his agenda. But that didn’t make things better,” Ryan said. “In fact, we find ourselves in a nation facing debt, doubt and despair. …

“Whatever the explanations, whatever the excuses, this is a record of failure.”

Ryan accused the Obama team of being “more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation,” and pledged a Romney-Ryan ticket would “lead” through the tough issues and correct course.

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