With reporting from ABC's Jonathan Karl, Emily Friedman, Michael Falcone and Shushannah Walshe
The wait is over: It's Paul Ryan for vice president.
Mitt Romney rolled out his running mate for the first time in the swing state of Virginia on Saturday at three well attended rallies. Early Saturday morning, Romney's campaign had announced the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Budget Committee chairman who has energized fiscal conservatives with his budget proposals and sweeping plans for entitlement reform.
As VP speculation reached a fever pitch Friday night, the campaign said that a pick would be announced in the morning at Romney's scheduled rally in Norfolk, Va. All signs pointed to Ryan, as top Republicans told ABC News that Romney had named the congressman as his 2012 ticketmate.
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Romney and Ryan complimented each other repeatedly, criticized Obama for economic woes, and sought to gain moral high ground in the presidential campaign by touting a positive vision and sharply criticizing President Obama over both policy and politics.
Romney and Ryan appeared together as running mates for the first time at a morning rally held, fittingly, in front of the battleship USS Wisconsin, draped in American-flag bunting.
"I am deeply excited and honored to join you as your running mate," Ryan said, after bounding down from the battleship, waving to the crowd in a suit and white dress shirt. As he made his way onstage, Romney greeted him.
"Glad to have you on board," Romney said to his new campaign partner.
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"Mitt Romney is a leader with the skills, the background and the character that our country needs at a crucial time in its history," Ryan said. "Following four years of failed leadership, the hopes of our country, which have inspired the world, are growing dim; and they need someone to revive them. Governor Romney is the man for this moment; and he and I share one commitment: we will restore the dreams and greatness of this country."
Mitt and Ann Romney stood behind the stage with Ryan's wife as Ryan spoke, as Ryan's children and two Romney grandchildren waved small American flags.
The newly anointed VP nominee divided his speech between praise for Romney, an introduction for himself, and criticism for the incumbent president.
"Let me say a word about the man Mitt Romney is about to replace," Ryan said. "No one disputes 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. in fact we find ourselves in a nation facing debt, doubt, and despair, This is the worst economic recovery in 70 years."
An awkward moment occurred when Romney introduced Ryan as "the next president of the United States." After Ryan took the podium, Romney momentarily seized it back to correct himself and laugh at his error.
"Every now and then, I'm known to make a mistake," Romney said. "I did not make a mistake with this guy, but I can tell you this: He's going to be the next vice president of the United States."
Shortly after Romney and Ryan left the stage in Norfolk, Romney's campaign offered up a fundraising e-mail to supporters, lauding Ryan as a "strong conservative leader" who is "widely respected for his leadership skills and his intellect" and asking for contributions online. Six hours later, the campaign announced it had raised $1.2 million.
The candidates moved on to Ashland, Va., for a midday rally at Randolph-Macon college. A huge crowd had gathered before the event, singing "America the Beautiful" and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as they waited for the new GOP duo. By then Romney and Ryan had changed into matching clothes: Both men wore white shirts and gray pants.
"This man said, 'I'm going to find Democrats to work with'--found a Democrat to colead a piece of legislation to make sure we can save Medicare. Republicans and Democrats coming together. He's a man who has great ideas and the capacity to lead, to find people across the aisle, to work together, to make change for the American people," Romney said., referring to Ryan's partnership with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden on a new Medicare proposal in the House GOP's 2012 budget plan--one that involved major concessions on Ryan's part.
An even larger crowd greeted them in Manassas late Saturday afternoon, where Romney staffers estimated "well over" 5,000 attendees inside the event's barricaded circumference at the edge of the Northern Virginia suburb's downtown area, with as many as 10,000 being turned away. The rally drew 17,000 registrations for attendance, Romney staff said. Three hours before the event hundreds had gathered in fair weather, lined up for blocks and buzzing excitedly outside the guarded perimeter.
Mutual affection wasn't their only message, as the Romney and Ryan continually bashed the president's handling of the economy and decried Obama's part in a negative presidential race.
Eliciting loud cheers from the crows in Manassas, Ryan demonstrated a willingness and ability to take swings at the president from the stump.
"Let's just review things for a moment. Let's see where things stand. Do you think the economy is headed in the right direction?" Ryan asked the crowd, which shouted, "No!"
"President Obama's not going to be able to run for re-election on his record, because it's a terrible record," Ryan said. "So what does he have left? Not only nothing, he's going to divide the country by trying to win this election by default. 'Hope and Change' have become 'Attack and Blame.' We're not going to fall for it."
Romney, who has engaged in a mostly negative war of TV ads with Obama, followed Ryan's introduction in Manassas and accused the president of "taking the campaign to the lowest point I can remember in my lifetime."
Ryan is viewed as a high-risk, high-reward pick for Romney, who had also considered former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, for the ticket.
Romney notified Portman personally on Friday that he was not the choice for VP. He called Pawlenty on Monday, the former Minnesota governor told ABC News.