Paul Ryan's Debut: What Went Right, What Went Wrong?

PHOTO: Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a campaign stop at West Springfield High School in Springfield, Va., Aug. 17, 2012.
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ANALYSIS: It was just over a week ago that Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan as his vice presidential pick. After a few days of campaigning together, the Republican candidates went their separate ways, but today they are re-uniting to mark Romney's 100th town hall meeting in New Hampshire.

ABC Political Director Amy Walter took a closer look at how Romney's running mate -- who many saw as a bold and even risky pick -- performed during his debut week on the national stage.

--He's A Needed Shot Of Energy And Confidence For Romney: On the stump, Ryan has been solid. He's engaging and personable. He's energetic. He also tells Romney's story better than Romney, himself. The degree to which Ryan makes Romney a better candidate is undeniable. And, we'll see that dynamic on display again today in Manchester, N.H.

--He's Taken Medicare Issue From Backburner To Hot Topic: For the first four days Ryan was on the campaign trail, he didn't utter the word Medicare. Now, thanks to Democratic attacks on Ryan's signature budget plan, it's become the issue. There are plenty of Republicans who remain worried that by choosing Ryan the presidential race will be litigated on Medicare. As one conservative GOP consultant told ABC News on Friday, "As a strategist, I am offended by this pick."

That said, this strategist, as well as other Republican insiders we've spoken with, are far from despondent about the fight. This isn't about winning the issue, they say, it's simply about breaking even. Said, one Republican strategist, "I am not arguing for a win on this issue. This is a draw," he said.

Get more pure politics at ABCNews.com/Politics and a lighter take on the news at OTUSNews.com

Another Republican who is involved in competitive House races said: "I think a lot of strategists are reliving Bush and Social Security" fight from 2005. (A fight, of course, that Republicans lost badly.) The battle on Medicare reform, said this strategist is "really is a different game."

And, Ryan is playing the game differently. Specifically, he's playing offense.

--Ryan's Moved From Defense To Offense On Medicare Attacks: On the trail he pivots directly from defining his record on Medicare to laying out a withering indictment of Obamacare's "$716 billion in Medicare cuts." Ryan actually endorsed the same cuts in his signature budget plan, the same plan Romney has said he would sign if he became president.

Ryan says he was forced to build his plan on those cuts because they were signed into law and he had to base his plan off of what was already current law. The $716 billion in cuts do not affect benefits for today's seniors. Instead, they reduce provider reimbursements and curb waste, fraud and abuse.

Ryan has become deft at blurring the lines of these inconvenient facts. And, muddying the issue is the best way for Team Romney to turn Medicare from liability to irrelevant. At a Saturday event at The Villages senior community in Florida, he simplified his program into three sentences. "Here is what Mitt Romney and I will do. We will end the raid of Medicare. We will restore the promise of this program." Saying he will "empower" seniors instead of depriving them, he was able to succinctly sell his plan, with his 78-year old mother by his side, and he did it without a white board or a confusing pitch.

--Bottom Line: This isn't to say that this new approach is guaranteed to work. Democrats are still convinced that Medicare is an issue that they can exploit to their benefit. Yet, it's also clear that Ryan and Romney refuse to let Democrats define the parameters of the debate. Now, the question is whether he and Romney will be able to move beyond Medicare and onto the issue they'd really like to define this campaign: Obama's record on the economy.

ABC's Shushannah Walshe contributed reporting.

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